California’s new law banning the sale of nearly all objects made from or with ivory is being challenged in court. A lawsuit filed in California Superior Court by the Ivory Education Institute, a nonprofit association promoting better understanding of the importance of ivory, seeks an injunction to stop the law before it takes effect on July 1.
The law, Assembly Bill 96, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 4, 2015, makes illegal the sale of almost any product, regardless of age, made from or with any tooth or tusk.
“We think the courts will see that elephant poaching originates in Asia, not the United States,” said Godfrey Harris, executive director of the institute. “We believe that the courts will not ignore the laws of economics even if the politicians have. As products become scarcer, prices rise when there is no change in demand. When ivory prices rise, poachers see more profit. This law actually endangers more elephants than it protects.”
The suit claims that the law deprives California residents due process, deprives them of their property without compensation, and is unconstitutional, noting that “pre-1977 ivory objects legally acquired owned by Plaintiffs will be rendered worthless.” The 1977 date is used because that’s the year the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a United Nations treaty, was ratified by the United States.
“As a result of the Law, works of art carved from ivory, and other ivory artifacts [of] importance that can no longer be legally bought or sold, may as a consequence deteriorate, fall into disrepair, become lost or destroyed, or become a part of an illegal underground commercial market,” the suit claims. “The reduction of art and artifacts to non saleable objects represents an attack on history, identity, and civilization. The loss to Plaintiffs and the taxpayers of California of the value of these artifacts of cultural history and the vitality of their collections is enormous. Such a loss cannot be justified where, as here, there has been and can be no demonstrated benefit to current African elephant herds by banning sales of art, antiques and artifacts carved prior to 1977 containing ivory.”
The suit further says, “These ivory objects held throughout California will be rendered worthless because it will be illegal to sell such items of whatever age. Such a prohibition can have no direct, indirect or collateral impact or effect whatsoever on the present day problem of killing elephants in Central Africa…. The Law simply goes too far and is over broad in casting a wide net to prohibit items that cannot be a factor in the current illegal poaching of elephants in Central Africa.”