We are writing to you because we are frightened: frightened for the future of elephants in the wild.
We believe that the proposed ban on the sale of antique ivory will send the trade into the hands of international criminals, people with no morals, people whose corruption is so complete they would have no problem driving elephants into extinction.
The black-market trade in poached ivory would surely increase if the regulated trade in antique ivory was banned.
History shows us that prohibition, whether alcohol, or drugs, leads to increased levels of consumption, driven by the criminal’s desire for profit above all else. We fear that the banning of all ivory sales will have the same effect.
The demand for ivory, especially in the Far East, is as strong as ever. Stopping all trading in antique ivory will inevitably lead to an increase in poaching.
The situation in Britain is already well regulated. The pre-1947 dateline is, in our experience, carefully followed.
We regularly travel into Europe, where, to our horror, we have seen many items of modern ivory being sold, but this is not the case in the UK.
As dealers we are well aware of the penalties, and the many auction houses that we attend also are very careful to comply. No-one in the British trade wants to fall foul of the legal system, or be the cause of any elephant deaths. The criminal fraternity have no such compunction.
“History has shown us that prohibition leads to increased levels of consumption
Act of vandalism
Furthermore, we sincerely believe that the potential destruction of ivory artefacts, inevitable if they no longer have a value, would go down in history as a monumental act of vandalism.
Ivory has long been highly prized, and some of the greatest human artistic achievements have been in ivory carving. Whether it is a 16th century German religious icon, a Japanese Meiji period figurine, or a Mughal Indian carved dagger hilt, their loss would not save a single elephant.
Finally, we feel that making ivory illegal to sell would be so unfair to the vast number of collectors, who over the years have spent huge sums of money, perfectly legally, collecting fine works of art.
Why should their collections be made worthless, at the stroke of a pen? Surely at least the government would have to offer financial compensation. Money that could be better spent on protecting elephants in the wild.
I hope that you will think very carefully before taking this proposed course of action.
Mark Austick and Andrew Parker