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  • Writer's pictureEPI Secretariat

Antiques trade fails to kill off landmark UK Ivory Act

Updated: May 27, 2020

The landmark UK Ivory Act has passed yet another legal challenge from the

antiques trade in an authoritative ruling issued on 18th May by the Court of Appeal.

The Act was introduced after EPI Partner organisation Environmental Investigation Agency

(EIA) revealed, in its ground-breaking research in 2017, that the UK was the world’s

leading exporter of antique ivory, particularly to China and Hong Kong – two illegal

trade hotspots for poached ivory.

Despite being passed in 2018 with overwhelming popular support and cross-party

Parliamentary backing, the Act has twice been challenged by a small group of traders

operating as Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (FACT), at a judicial review in the

High Court in November 2019 and again at an appeal this February against the High

Court’s decision in favour of the Act.

Shruti Suresh, EIA Senior Wildlife Campaigner, said: “With this decisive result, both

the UK High Court as well as a three-judge bench of the Court of Appeal have upheld

the validity and legality of the UK Ivory Act.

“With a 2017 survey showing 85 per cent of the British public supported a ban on all

ivory trade, with a few narrow exemptions, it’s been frustrating to see this Act delayed

for so long while an estimated 55 African elephants are poached every day for


“Now that this legal hurdle has been cleared, we look forward to seeing the law rolled

out as soon as possible and vigorously enforced– we’ve already lost too many

elephants while FACT dragged out the process in pursuit of antiques traders’ narrow

financial interest.”

Alice Railton, Head of Operations at the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI)

Foundation, said: “This is very good news for Africa’s elephants. The majority of

African governments want all legal trade in ivory to stop. We hope the UK Government

will implement the Act without further distractions.”

The UK’s exports and domestic market contribute significantly to ongoing demand for

ivory by perpetuating its perceived value in the eyes of consumers and making it

socially acceptable.

The UK helped create the new international consensus against the idea of ivory being

seen as a commodity. The European Commission is currently looking at legislation of

its own based on the UK Ivory Act and other countries such as Australia, New Zealand

and Singapore have introduced, or are considering, similar laws.



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