Labour manifesto promises a total ban on trade in ivory (UK)


Laura Chesters, Antiques Trade Gazette

Date Published

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A number of Labour MPs have recently spoken out against the trade in ivory, even for antiques containing ivory. At a parliamentary debate in the House of Commons in February on the UK domestic ivory market, John Mann MP said: “If I were a minister, I would ban the lot and stop any trade in or movement of ivory. The survival of the elephant is far more important than a museum, however great it and the curators of the modern age may be, however wise, experienced and brilliant they may be and however great their genius.”

York MP Rachel Maskell also voiced her support for a ban.

The Labour Party included the ivory trade pledge in a sentence mentioning the sale of puppies and wild animals in circuses.

The Labour Party included the ivory trade pledge in promises relating to animal welfare.

British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA) chief executive Marco Forgione said: “I am extremely disappointed that there were no clear and definite commitments as to how a Labour Government would crack down on the abhorrent slaughter of elephants and the illegal trade in ivory.

“The comment in the Labour Party manifesto on ivory seems to have been added as an after thought with no idea of what the aim is or how it can practically be achieved.”

Chief executive of LAPADA, the Association of Art & Antiques Dealers, Rebecca Davies, said: “While we respect the public’s strong feelings on the matter of ivory and support a complete ban on the trade in modern ivory, a complete ban on commercial exploitation of antique ivory risks a lot of unforeseen consequences.

“This is an understandably emotional debate, but it is in just such circumstances that we need to assess its likely impact with a cool head to achieve an effective outcome. The way this policy is presented in the manifesto leads me to believe that it lacks such analysis, which is regrettable.”

The Tory manifesto is expected on Thursday. Its 2010 and 2015 manifesto pledged to implement a “total ban on ivory sales”.

However, the Conservative Party is now expected to push for a system where the trade in cultural objects and antiques containing ivory would be permitted, but more tightly controlled. The Conservative Party did not respond to a request for comment on the manifesto ahead of its launch.

In September, environment secretary Andrea Leadsom unveiled proposals to stamp out the trade in all post-1947 ivory and announced plans for a consultation.

Currently, UK law is in line with the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). The sale of items containing ivory dated between 1947 and the present day are banned. Trade in ‘worked’ items dating from before 1947 are permitted. The UK already has a total ban on trade in raw tusks – ‘unworked’ ivory – of any age.