The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has long campaigned for an end to the UK ivory trade. The charity states that "an estimated 50 elephants are killed a day by poachers, to feed the demand for ivory" and that "the UK must do its part to end this horrific slaughter."
It is widely recognised that African elephants continue to face serious threats. The Great Elephant Census published in August 2016 found a 30% decline in the African savannah elephant population and that the rate of decline accelerated from 2007 to 2014, primarily due to poaching. It is estimated that, from 1979-1989, over 50% of Africa's elephants were poached for their ivory. Around 20,000 African elephants are killed by poaching each year.
While international trade in ivory has been banned since 1989, legal domestic markets continue in some countries, including the UK.
I agree that we need a total ban on the domestic ivory trade in the UK. At the recent General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to introduce and enforce a total ban on ivory trading.
The UK already has a ban on trade in raw tusks, or ‘unworked’ ivory, of any age. In September 2016, the Government announced plans for a ban on sales of modern day ivory in the UK, to cover items containing ivory dated between 1947 and the present day.
It is disappointing, however, that despite committing to consult on these proposals, the consultation was not launched before the 2017 general election. It is also the case that no commitment on the ivory trade was contained in the current Government’s election manifesto or the recent Queen’s Speech.
I am concerned that the proposals outlined during the last Parliament are too limited because they do not include older ivory products. There are concerns that illegal modern ivory can be falsely claimed to be old ivory because only carbon dating can provide the necessary identification. The charity Action for Elephants UK has also said that the existence of a legal ivory trade serves as a cover for illegal sales of ivory.
I await further details on the current Government’s plans to tackle the ivory trade and on the status of the promised consultation and I will follow developments on this closely.
However, I believe that the time for consultation is over and that it is now time for action. I can therefore assure you that I will continue to press for a total ban on ivory sales in the UK and for progress towards stopping the poaching of elephants and other endangered species.