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We feel we must refute key points raised in Mr Harris’ letter.

- Point 1: Elephants should not, of course, be slaughtered for their tusks, but on the other hand there are thousands of tons of ivory lying in warehouses around the world. If this was released onto the open market, instead of virtue-signalling by burning it, the price would be lowered to a level where poaching was no longer profitable.

This argument is similar to that used to persuade CITES to allow a ‘one-off’ sale of stockpiled African ivory in 2008. A study by researchers from University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University, published in June 2016 and widely reported in the media, argued that this sale led to an increase in demand for ivory, a dramatic increase in elephant poaching, and is widely acknowledged to be the cause of the current crisis.

“Surely it is better to err on the side of caution and support the ban, than risk losing elephants forever

- Point 2: Many antiques incorporate small pieces of ivory: tea and coffee pot insulators and finials, for example. A large percentage of antique furniture has ivory detailing or escutcheons. Most miniatures are painted on ivory. Many other antiques incorporate small pieces of ivory. Are these to be made completely unsaleable, or the items ruined by having tiny bits of ivory wrenched out?

This suggestion is completely erroneous. No one is calling for the destruction of such antiques, neither do we wish to see them defaced. Our response to question 13 in Defra’s consultation survey makes this clear.

Point 3:Then there are huge and very valuable collections of Japanese netsukes and other ivory artefacts. Are these all to be rendered worthless?

Along with all other ivory objects whose commercial trade may be banned, netsukes would lose their price tag.

However, this would not affect their intrinsic artistic and historical value, and collections would continue to be displayed as before.

Point 4:The existing system, where ivory objects made pre-1947 are exempt, allows buying and selling of these items to continue. Auction houses are well aware of these rules and the hefty fines that accompany breaches.

There is well documented evidence that auction houses have been flouting the rules on the sale of ivory, as shown in the Two Million Tusks study Ivory: The Grey Areas, published in October.

Point 5:The antiques trade brings in a huge amount of business to the UK and if there is a total restriction on ivory, this market will be largely destroyed. A lot of trade will simply go underground, with a loss to the Exchequer.

Mr Harris’ sweeping claim (unencumbered by evidence) is plainly refuted by the facts cited in Ivory: The Grey Areas – ivory sales make up a very small percentage of the antiques trade (far less in scale and size than previously thought).

It is shameful that a small number of people are prepared to continue selling ivory when the very survival of these magnificent creatures is threatened.

Surely it is better to err on the side of caution and support the ban, than risk losing them forever.

Joanne Smith

Action for Elephants UK

IVORY CONSULTATION – your opinion counts

To respond online go to:

You can request a paper questionnaire by writing to: International Team – Ivory Consultation, 1E Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR

Or ask for one by emailing

Deadline for response is December 29, 2017