The decision this week by the Court of Appeal to dismiss the case from the antiques lobby is the second time the Ivory Act has had to be defended in the Courts - a delaying tactic the antiques lobby is arguably using to prevent this landmark legislation from coming into effect. We are thankful for the Court’s decision to value the lives of elephants above the interests of those who want to profit from ivory.
LINK members have been the leading voices in the ivory ban campaign. Member groups like IFAW helped pull together a wider coalition of support, including fine art dealers, musicians, museums and law enforcement agencies, to help make sure this was balanced and proportionate legislation with some limited exemptions. Many of LINK’s members have worked tirelessly to help bring about this ban with new research, reports on the ivory trade, through lobbying parliament and ministers, conducting surveys of the public and politicians, and some members have even held an ivory surrender. The judgement at the Appeal Court is a vindication of all the work everyone has done.
The issue we now face is that the Ivory Act has been delayed again. It has been nearly 18 months since the Act was passed in Parliament and enforcers are still not able to use it. We hope the legal proceedings will finish and we can look forward to working with the Government to bring the Act it into force as soon as possible, and close down the UK ivory market once and for all.
We must remember this judgement sends a powerful message across the world - that closing domestic ivory markets is the only way that we are ever going to stop the poaching of elephants. While ivory markets exist we will continue to see elephants being poached on a daily basis. Surely it is time to recognise that the only place ivory belongs is on a living elephant.
In recognition the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs, I want to commend them on leading one of the most comprehensive and inclusive consultations I have ever participated in. This victory in the Courts is also testament to the people in Government and in the Civil Service who also worked so hard to make this happen. We often under estimate the massive contribution made behind the scenes, and to see senior members of the Defra team having to defend an Act in Court is something most of us do not see.
If the UK had lost this case, it could have had disastrous consequences globally as countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the EU look to UK legislation for guidance. Any weakening of the Act or challenges upheld would have sent the wrong message globally and potentially allowed markets to remain open, directly impacting elephant populations.
We hope that now the Court case is behind us, Defra will be able to act quickly and start the final consultation on the Statutory Instruments to enforce the Act and implement it as soon as they can. There is also the matter of additional ivory bearing species to be considered. When this is complete we can then close our domestic ivory market once and for all.
Finally, I want to pay tribute to all of the organisations, their supporters, partners and friends who made this ban possible, and to the Ministers and MPs who had the vision and will to make the ban a reality. It was truly a team effort, showing what interested parties, animal welfare and conservation organisations and the Government can achieve together.
David Cowdrey, Head of Policy & Campaigns, Ifaw
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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