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An open letter – a copy of which was sent to the ministry of culture – responds to the shock announcement by Royal and is signed by presidents of five trade bodies.

They say a blanket ban of the kind proposed “would have a dramatic effect on the French art market, which is currently the object of a parliamentary mission to help its growth.”

The signatories include Jean-Pierre Osenat of the auctioneers’ association Syndicat National des Maisons de Ventes Volontaires (SYMEV) and Dominic Chevalier of the dealers’ association Syndicat National des Antiquaires (SNA).

Royal used the moment of a huge ivory ‘burn’ in Kenya on April 30 to announce her intention to implement a total ban on ivory sales in all French territories and stated her support for similar measures at an EU level.

It means the immediate suspension of the export of raw ivory from France and the introduction of tougher penalties under French law for the trafficking of threatened species. However, no other details were included.

American Inspired

The writers of the letter believe the proposed legislation is inspired by US policy that, they say, has created a climate of fear.

“French museums now will not lend items to American museums for fear they will be destroyed. An orchestra recently had its instruments seized because they contained 19th century ivory. Where will it end?

“We are strongly opposed to the trade in modern ivory and believe that any change to the legislation needs long, hard consideration and consultation with the professional bodies who work in the sectors most affected.

“A ban poses a danger to ancient objects. We need to make sure it is the legal trade that is affected, not the art market.”