Last month, at ATG’s Seminar on CITES, Victoria Borwick MP started the ball rolling on the government’s ivory consultation in a traditional way – by calling on the trade to write to their local MPs.
Now the consultation survey is about to be published and trade bodies urge a big response (see below). But before you write emails and fill in questionnaires, let’s remind ourselves why making the case for pre-1947 ivory is important – and the implications of a complete ban.
We don’t have precise data on the volume and value of antique objects containing ivory traded by dealers and auctioneers. But we do have a calculation by BADA and LAPADA – whose joint lobbying on the issue is admirable – that suggests some 70% of their combined membership sells antiques with varying amounts of ivory.
Why your views count
Now, you might well wonder what impact a letter to your local MP may have – against a national, high-profile campaign for a total UK ban of ivory trading, with the aim of saving endangered African elephants (a cause the entire art and antiques business wholeheartedly supports).
Your MP represents everyone in their constituency (whether you voted for them or not).
So the good news is that if they receive significant correspondence on an issue, MPs are duty-bound to pass its sentiment on to the relevant minister.
This happens even if the MP disagrees with an issue, though it obviously helps if they are sympathetic to its reasoning. So when writing, bear in mind that MPs are more likely to advance causes that impact their local economies. We suggest making the following points:
▪ State how many people you employ locally, directly and indirectly.
▪ Show what role your business plays in keeping the high street vibrant.
▪ If you’re a dealer, outline the amount you’ve invested in stock.
▪ Explain how and why often small amounts of pre-1947 ivory form part of everyday items such as pianos and teapots as well as high art.
▪ And finally… be clear on your abhorrence of modern poaching and argue how bona fide antique objects made of or incorporating ivory are nothing to do with the issues facing endangered elephant herds.
The next parliamentary debate on ivory is scheduled for Monday, February 6, at which Borwick needs supportive MPs around her. Reader letters to MPs are already being sent – see page 54.
The impact of a complete ivory ban on the trade may be hard to quantify but can we risk this outcome? Putting your pen to paper or your fingers to the keyboard will be worth the effort.