Facts and Fallacies

The antiques lobby claims sales of antique ivory have no link to elephants being killed today, that a ban would drive dealers out of business, family heirlooms would have to be destroyed or forfeited and museums would have to start emptying their exhibit cases. Get behind the scaremongering and read for yourself the facts of the impact of a UK ivory trade ban below.

Unfortunately, it does. The best way to reduce poaching of elephants is to reduce demand for ivory. Selling ivory – including antique ivory – only fuels further demand, both in the UK and in Asia. It reinforces ivory’s social acceptability and makes it a desirable product to own. Also, antique and modern ivory can appear side-by-side in a shop and it can be very difficult to tell it apart, particularly if it has been re-carved.  China and Hong Kong have committed to close down their markets and we should do everything we can to support them, including stopping the UK’s exports of antiques. How can it make sense to congratulate them for closing their markets even as we continue to allow people here to sell ivory to buyers over there?

No, it doesn’t. Hardly any antiques dealers specialise solely in ivory. Most sell only a small quantity of ivory each year (and some of that would still be allowed under the exemptions we are suggesting). There is evidence that for many auctioneers of antiques, ivory represents less than one per cent of annual sales.

No, the Bill will not mean that anyone should have to destroy ivory that has been passed down through the generations.

No, displaying ivory would still be allowed. There will be special protection for museums that will allow them to continue adding to their collections of ivory pieces so they can be preserved for the future.

Most piano keys made from ivory will be covered by one of the exemptions we are suggesting, so they can continue to be sold.

Yes, they will. The Bill is aimed at the commercial trade in ivory (i.e. buying and selling) and there will be a specific exemption for trade in musical instruments. Travelling with an instrument and bringing it back will be allowed.

Ivory still in the form of a tusk or part of a tusk is called ‘raw’ or ‘unworked’ ivory. Its sale is already largely banned and that is reinforced by the Bill. Ivory that has been carved into figurines, billiard balls etc, or which has been included as inlay in other items such as furniture, is called ‘worked ivory’. Trade in worked ivory will largely be banned, apart from five narrow exemptions.