Workable ivory ban requires one final lobbying push
As we outline on these pages, under the new legal framework, there are likely to be huge numbers of antiques and works of art that won’t qualify for trade under the exceptions.
Now is not the time to question who has ‘owned the debate’ on ivory in the eight-year build-up to this announcement, from when the Conservative government first mooted a ban. As ATG’s letters pages and editorials these past years attest, we are all united in wanting to preserve the elephant and drive out any potential for modern or poached ivory to enter the system.
At the same time, it is hard to ignore the potential damage this ban – as currently outlined – could inflict on large and small dealers and auctioneers, as well as collectors of objects incorporating antique ivory.
“The voices in this week’s issue agree that now is not the moment to throw in the towel
So, with months left before the ban becomes law, the voices in this week’s issue agree that now is not the moment to throw in the towel.
The trade appears united and focused on the ban’s inconsistencies, especially regarding the de minimis rule.
It is surely an anomaly to learn that – under the new rules – it will be fine to sell a wind instrument made in 1974 that contains up to 20% ivory, while to trade an inlaid writing slope made in the Vizagapatam region of Indian in the 1750s, it can contain only 10% of the offending material.
Quite what the description ‘rarest and most important items of their type’ means in both legal and practical terms remains to be seen. A narrow view is that this excludes all but a small number of ‘museum quality’ items.
A broader interpretation – one that seeks to prohibit the sale of ‘tourist trinkets’, tusk carvings and billiard balls while permitting the sale of antiques that have genuine artistic merit – would provide the trade with much more wriggle room.
ATG’s guide to the UK Ivory Ban