Banning UK Sales of Ivory

On 6 October Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, set out the Government’s plans for an ivory ban and announced a 12-week consultation. During his announcement he also made it clear that the Government is trying to tackle the ivory crisis at both ends of chain, referring to the fact that the UK military trains an elite force of anti-poachers in African countries, and Border Force officers share their expertise in identifying smuggled ivory with counterparts worldwide to stop wildlife trafficking.

Nobody can deny that every measure should be taken to help protect the dwindling population of elephants, one of the most majestic animals on the planet. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) figures state that since 2006 the total number of elephants in Africa has decreased by 21%, primarily due to poaching and the UK Government believe tighter controls on trading ivory will go some way to curtailing the demise of the elephants.

However, the ivory ban consultation announced today is sure to raise lots of questions and concerns for legitimate businesses. Especially as the UK is largest importer and exporter of art and antiques in Europe and a global centre for trade in art and antiques. With the new proposition, the Government has ambitions for the UK to have amongst the most stringent rules in the world for trading in ivory.

Mark Hayward

Mark Hayward

Chief Executive

“We welcome the publication of the consultation and look forward to engaging with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Government has stated that they will work with the antiques sector during the consultation to understand issues, set out definitions and look at exemptions.”

The Consultation

On the 6 October 2017 Defra opened a consultation seeking views on banning UK sales of Ivory and they are looking for evidence of the effect this change might have. The consultation itself applies to the whole of the UK but will accept responses from people outside the UK.

Summary of the Consultation

It’s important that you read the full consultation document before you complete your response but we have summarised the key points below:

  • The ban would prohibit UK sales of ivory and the import and export of ivory for sale to and from the UK.
  • Under the new proposals, ‘worked’ ivory of any age would be banned, an extension of the existing rules which allow worked or carved items produced before 3 March 1947 to be sold.
  • Existing rules in respect of the right to own, gift, inherit or bequeath items containing ivory will continue to apply, and the UK wide ban will incorporate, what the Government is calling ‘strictly defined exemptions’.
  • Musical instruments are specifically referred to and respondents are asked about an exemption to allow the continued sale of musical instruments containing ivory and if you have a view on what scope the exemption should be?
  • They are asking for evidence of the ‘de minimis’ exemption. This is items that only contain a small proportion of ivory, incidental to the attraction and value of the item. The Government are seeking opinions as to what these thresholds should be.
  • It’s proposed that the sale of artistic, cultural or historic significance will be allowed to continue, including the sale of ivory to and between museums.

Border Force Amnesty Scheme

ivory submissions

We've partnered with Border Force on an initiative to remove endangered species items which lack provenance from circulation in a responsible manner.

Participation in the scheme demonstrates that you fully support the various initiatives in the UK and worldwide to preserve elephants and other endangered wildlife. The scheme is designed to remove items that are made from or include ivory or other endangered species material such as rhinoceros horn or tortoiseshell (marine turtle). With a focus on the items that cannot legally be sold.

Unscrupulous traders buy or otherwise obtain, ivory items (including broken or other unsaleable items) and illegally export them to countries where they can be reworked and sold on for profit. This scheme ensures this cannot happen and provides you with a receipt for your records just in case your client comes back later asking about the object.

Border Force is happy to accept most items including unworked elephant tusks but they would prefer that you do not send large pieces of furniture or pianos. If you have a large object where the ivory or other material can be removed easily, for example, inlays or piano key flats, they will accept the removed elements.

If you are unsure about an item (or have a question about a CITES matter) please feel free to contact the Border Force CITES Team and they’ll be happy to advise you.

How it works

Download the form, fill it in and send it together with the items you wish to dispose of to the Border Force CITES Team (the address is on the form). If you have more items than can be listed on one form, please complete another form for the extra items.

In return Border Force will send you a letter with a legal notice. Don’t panic - you do not have to do anything with it (unless for some reason you wanted any of the items to be returned to you). Then, a month later you will receive a further Notice of Seizure for your records and the matter is concluded.

Although Border Force are required to record the matter you will not be recorded as having committed any offence, in fact you will be recorded as having made a worthwhile contribution to conservation.

Download the form

Pictured - First three scheme submissions from NAVA Propertymark salerooms