Gove promises to tackle illegal ivory trade in first speech as environment minister (UK)


Laura Chesters, Antiques Trade Gazette

Date Published

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Michael Gove MP gave his first speech as environment minister today and has vowed to tackle the illegal ivory trade. However, he made no reference to a total ban on ivory.

Gove said: “I grew up with an emotional attachment to natural beauty which inevitably influences my feelings towards questions on everything from architecture to ivory…

“The UK has been a global leader on efforts to promote biodiversity and tackle the illegal wildlife trade… A series of international conferences have pushed the threats from poaching and illegal trade in endangered species up the global political agenda… We need to take action to tackle the trade in illegal ivory.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is to push ahead with a consultation on the trade in ivory before making any changes to legislation.

In parliamentary written questions and answers earlier this month, Defra junior minister Thérèse Coffey confirmed a consultation will take place.

She said: “Any government proposals on further UK restrictions on the sale of ivory would be subject to consultation. Details of the timetable for such a consultation would be announced at launch… Bringing an end to elephant poaching is a priority for this government. We are currently considering next steps and will set these out in due course.”

Manifesto pledge

The position on the trade in antique ivory by the Conservative government has so far been unclear. In its 2017 manifesto it omitted any promise relating to a total ban on ivory. This was in contrast to its 2015 and 2010 version, which pledged an outright ban on the trade in ivory.

Other nations that have issued so-called total bans, such as Hong Kong and China, and the European Union, have made allowances for antique objects or those with cultural or historic importance.

The sector’s trade associations are hopeful that Defra, following a consultation, will make exceptions for antiques containing ivory.

Coffey said last month said: “In the UK there are strong rules in place controlling the sale of ivory, backed up by robust enforcement from Border Force and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Our measures already go further than the requirements of CITES and EU law; for example, the UK CITES Management Authority’s policy is not to issue certificates for the sale of raw African elephant ivory of any age.”