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‘A great day for elephants!’ – antiques trade fails to kill off landmark UK Ivory Act!

LONDON:  The landmark UK Ivory Act has passed yet another legal challenge from the antiques trade in an authoritative ruling issued today (18/5/2020) by the Court of Appeal.

The Act was introduced after the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) revealed, in its ground-breaking research in 2017, that the UK was the world’s leading exporter of antique ivory, particularly to China and Hong Kong – two illegal trade hotspots for poached ivory.

Despite being passed in 2018 with overwhelming popular support and cross-party Parliamentary backing, the Act has twice been challenged by a small group of traders operating as Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (FACT), at a judicial review in the High Court in November 2019 and again at an appeal this February against the High Court’s decision in favour of the Act.

Shruti Suresh, EIA Senior Wildlife Campaigner, said: “With this decisive result, both the UK High Court as well as a three-judge bench of the Court of Appeal have upheld the validity and legality of the UK Ivory Act.

“With a 2017 survey showing 85 per cent of the British public supported a ban on all ivory trade, with a few narrow exemptions, it’s been frustrating to see this Act delayed for so long while an estimated 55 African elephants are poached every day for trinkets.

“Now that this legal hurdle has been cleared, we look forward to seeing the law rolled out as soon as possible and vigorously enforced– we’ve already lost too many elephants while FACT dragged out the process in pursuit of antiques traders’ narrow financial interest.

Alice Railton, Head of Operations at the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) Foundation, said: “This is very good news for Africa’s elephants. The majority of African governments want all legal trade in ivory to stop. We hope the UK Government will implement the Act without further distractions.

EIA has been in the vanguard of a campaign to adopt ivory trade restrictions in the UK, arguing that any legal trade in ivory provides cover for the illegal trade because it is difficult to distinguish between antique and newly carved ivory.

The UK’s exports and domestic market contribute significantly to ongoing demand for ivory by perpetuating its perceived value in the eyes of consumers and making it socially acceptable.

The UK helped create the new international consensus against the idea of ivory being seen as a commodity. The European Commission is currently looking at legislation of its own based on the UK Ivory Act and other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore have introduced, or are considering, similar laws.

Suresh added: “We wholeheartedly commend the UK Government for its diligence in seeing this legislation through and urge it to continue showing leadership in closing ivory markets both at home as well as abroad.”



  • Paul Newman, EIA Press & Communications Officer, via press[at]
  • Alice Railton, EPI Head of Operations, via arailton[at]



  1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, pangolins and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; we work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and we address the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.
  2. The EPI is a coalition of 20 African countries with common policies on elephant conservation.
  3. Ten leading NGOs worked together to support the British Government to ensure the passing of the UK Ivory Act. The members of the coalition are: Born Free Foundation, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Environmental Investigation Agency, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Natural Resources Defence Council, Space for Giants, Stop Ivory, Tusk, Wildlife Conservation Society and Zoological Society of London


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