Government set to ditch manifesto pledge to ban ivory trade (England)


Joe Murphy, The Evening Standard

Date Published

Theresa May’s Government faced fury today as it emerged it is heading
for another manifesto breach – by abandoning a promise to ban the
bloodthirsty trade in ivory.

Secretary Andrea Leadsom is set to unveil proposals shortly that would
allow antiques carved from ivory before 1947 to remain on sale,
despite fears that this will fuel illegal poaching of the endangered
African elephant.

Her plans appear to flout a clear promise given at the 2015 election
by the Conservatives to “press for a total ban on ivory sales” as part
of action to save dwindling herds of the majestic beasts.

Critics said Mrs May would endanger trust in politics if she allowed
such a major manifesto breach so soon after this week’s National
Insurance rise.

Labour MP Wes Streeting said: “This is not just about protecting
elephants – it is about trust in politics. If the Tories break this
promise they will face a perfect storm of a shattered pledge and
failing to protect an endangered and much-loved species.”

Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley, a long-standing campaigner for
wildlife, said: “There is far too much cheating on old ivory. The
arguments for a complete ban are growing.”

No 10 did not comment this morning on the charge that the Leadsom
proposals would breach the party’s manifesto. A source close to Ms
Leadsom, meanwhile, said he could not “pre-empt what is going to be in
our consultation”.

Ms Leadsom herself, however, revealed last September that she would be
consulting on a ban only on “raw” ivory, which wildlife watchdogs say
is easily turned into fake antiques.

A message must be sent: Ivory trade is unacceptable in all forms

Tshekedi Khama, Minister of Wildlife for Botswana

Here in Botswana we have a unique responsibility to the elephant for
our country is home to more elephants than any other nation in Africa.

Today some 160,000 live within our borders, with a further 40,000
crossing over on a regular basis from the countries that neighbour us.

We live with elephants. They are an essential part of our ecosystem.
They help give deeper meaning to this ancient land.

But all of them are at risk unless the world ends the trade in ivory —

Here in Botswana our rigorous anti-poaching policies and brave teams
of rangers have limited the damage but even here we have lost some
elephants. That is why, after having examined all the evidence, I now
support the total ban on the ivory trade, everywhere.

The last legally sanctioned sale of stockpiled ivory took place in
2008. Rather than the increased supply reducing prices, it only served
to stimulate global demand.

For Africans, elephants are worth far more alive than dead.

A living elephant generates £1.3 million in tourism revenue over its lifetime.

This is 76 times the value of its tusks on the black market.

Banning the ivory trade won’t by itself save every elephant from
poachers. But such a ban is an essential requisite of any
comprehensive global conservation strategy.

The clear message must be sent that this trade in all its forms is
unacceptable — and that message must be sent now.

A Commons mutiny is being threatened by almost 100 MPs who signed an
early day motion in Parliament calling for an all-out ban on ivory
sales, as demanded by wildlife conservationists backed by Prince

The motion states that African elephants are facing “an unprecedented
crisis” with one killed every 15 minutes for its tusks.

It warns that “the existence of legal domestic markets” is causing
poaching because artefacts made with the tusks of freshly killed
elephants are falsely antiqued, using staining and other ageing

It’s author, Labour MP John Mann, said: “Despite huge public pressure
for a ban, Andrea Leadsom is stalling.

“This is about the kind of world we want to leave to our
grandchildren. A world without elephants is simply unthinkable.

“Britain should be taking a lead in the world – not least after the
valiant efforts of Prince William who has become a world leader in the
cause of the elephant.”

Lib Dem Euro-MP Catherine Bearder said fake antiques were being
intercepted “on an almost daily basis” at ports and Heathrow.

“You only have to look on eBay to see that the trade in ivory
artefacts including knives and carvings is rife,” she said. “That is
why we need a complete ban on ivory sales now.”

A public e-petition calling for a total ban has reached 1,995
signatures. And a recent study suggested that the UK is now the
third-largest supplier of illegal ivory items to the US.

Last September Ms Leadsom proposed a compromise where items made
before 1947 could be lawfully traded.

Her department said a consultation with environmental groups, the
antiques and arts sectors and other relevant parties will be launched

A Defra spokesperson said: “We are committed to bringing an end to
elephant poaching and we will shortly be consulting on our plans for
an ivory ban.

“We are doing more than ever to tackle the illegal wildlife trade,
including investing £26m to combat poaching on the frontline and bring
an end to this cruel trade.”

Ms Leadsom is thought by MPs to have come under pressure from London’s
top auction houses and antique dealers who trade in heirlooms.

Tory MP Mark Pritchard, a committed wildlife campaigner, said he
backed Ms Leadsom, arguing that banning antiques would backfire by
driving  up the black market price in ivory. “Potentially that would
increase the slaughter of elephants,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters that the government
would “stick to the manifesto pledge” and was “committed to doing
everything we can to stop poaching”. However, the PM’s spokesman also
referred to “the ban on ivory”, a phrase that differed from the term
“total ban” used in the Tory manifesto. A total ban is seen as
covering both raw and antique ivory, while a ban might refer just to
raw ivory.

The spokesman confirmed that the consultation would be launched soon,
adding: “We will seek views from all parties on how and when we
introduce the ban on ivory.”