UK Proposes Tough Ban on Ivory Trade, Exempts Items from Colonial Period

Violation of the new law could invite jail term for up to five years and unlimited fine.


The United Kingdom will soon introduce a law banning the sale of ivory items, the UK government said on April 3. The ban will be the toughest in Europe, it said.

The UK government has, however, made certain exemptions, and these include ivory objects that were either gifts or had been brought to the United Kingdom during the British colonial regime, the Hindustan Times reported.

A date has not been fixed yet for the introduction of the legislation. A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that it would be done “when parliamentary time allows,” according to the Guardian.

The ban will include some limited exemptions like items containing less than 10 per cent ivory made before 1947 and instruments containing less than 20 per cent ivory made before 1975, a statement from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said.

The ban will also include limited exemptions for accredited museums and for rare or important items which are more than a century old. Specialist institutions will evaluate these before the items are issued exemption permits.

“Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol, so we will introduce one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales to protect elephants for future generations,” Environment Secretary Michael Gove said, describing the ivory trade as “abhorrent,” according to the Guardian.

Anyone violating the new law could be jailed for up to five years and may have to pay unlimited fine.

The announcement was made by the UK government after a 12-week public consultation on the ivory trade ban. The consultation was announced in October last year. Over 70,000 responses were submitted to the consultation, of which 88 per cent were in favor of the proposals. This made the consultation exercise the largest one conducted by Defra, the Guardian report said.

“Around 55 African elephants are killed for their ivory a day, their tusks turned into carvings and trinkets. But if we want to stop the poaching of this majestic animal, we need global action. We hope the United Kingdom will continue to press countries where the biggest ivory markets are, most of which are in Asia, to shut down their trade too,” Tanya Steele, the chief executive of WWF-UK, said.

As per the current law, which is similar to that in many other nations, the sale of raw elephant ivory of any age is banned. It, however, permits trade in ivory objects that have been worked upon before 1947 without any certificate as well as ivory objects after 1947 with a certificate.

Around 7.6 tons of legal ivory have been exported from the European Union since 2003, according to the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). The analysis points out that United Kingdom exports more legal ivory than any other nation in the world.

“UK ivory exports are stimulating consumer demand globally, especially in Hong Kong and China, two of the world’s largest markets for both legal and illegal ivory,” Mary Rice, the executive director of EIA, had said in 2017, when EIA published its analysis, the National Geographic reported.

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