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Letters to Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledging announcement of a full ivory ban – 7 Oct 2017

Letters to Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledging announcement of a full ivory ban – 7 Oct 2017

After we had written the open letter below to Prime Minister May, to be delivered on the day of our protest on 7 October, we heard the day before that the government had announced a proposal for a full ban on ivory trade! To acknowledge this welcome news, we wrote a second letter to Theresa May which we delivered along with our open letter that called for this action.

Letter to Theresa May acknowledging the government’s proposal for a full ban

7 October 2017

Dear Prime Minister,

We were thrilled to hear the news of the government’s proposal for a full ban on ivory trade in the UK. We’re adding this cover letter to acknowledge this momentous step and to thank you and your government for the commitment to ending the trade and to move forward with the consultation.

The attached letter has been signed by around 200 NGOs, conservationists, MPs and others, and shows the strength of feeling behind the call for a ban. While every signatory will be welcoming DEFRA’s announcement, we know that there is still the consultation process ahead and that strong representations will be made by the antiques trade to try and water down the ban and maximise the exemptions. We hope the government will not weaken in its resolve and that the ‘ban will prohibit the sale of ivory items of all ages’, as stated by DEFRA.

Once implemented, this ban will put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to end the trade in ivory that has fuelled the catastrophic decline of elephants, and will enable it to stand proud on the international stage and as the host of the 2018 conference on the illegal wildlife trade.

We look forward with much hope and expectation that your government will follow through with a comprehensive ban on ivory sales in the UK as quickly as possible.


Maria Mossman
Action for Elephants UK


Our open letter written just before the government’s announcement

7 October 2017

Dear Prime Minister,

Today marked the fourth annual Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, with people in over 100 cities across the world uniting in the call to save these endangered iconic species and to ban all trade in their tusks and horns. Unless we put a stop to such trade across the globe, the poaching of these animals will continue until they disappear altogether from the wild.
Here in London we marked the day with a silent protest at Parliament Square, to remember the hundreds of thousands of elephants and rhinos killed by poachers, and to call on the government to introduce a ban on the domestic trade in ivory without delay.

We, along with many members of the public, were bitterly disappointed to see the promise of an ivory ban dropped from your new manifesto for the first time in three elections. We hope you will now bring forward the legislation needed to implement a ban as a matter of urgency.
An ivory trade ban has huge public support, with 95% of respondents polled in a YouGov survey (April 2017) saying they had no interest in buying antique ivory. Among MPs, 96% are in favour of an ivory ban (YouGov poll June 2017). Clearly it’s an enormously popular proposal. The only dissenting voice is the antiques trade.

Ivory makes up only a tiny proportion of the antiques market in the UK. The current laws that attempt to regulate the legal trade are quite simply not fit for purpose. We’ve seen that ivory can be artificially aged, and without proper testing (which is prohibitively costly) anyone can claim an item they sell is antique. Evidence suggests that products manufactured from ‘new’ ivory are relatively easily passed off as antiques and widely traded within and from the UK. Any legal ivory trade provides a cover for illegal trade, with loopholes and weak enforcement of laws allowing ivory of more recent date to find its way to market stalls and antiques shops all over the country.

The argument used by the antiques trade that an ivory ban would harm Britain’s cultural heritage is unfounded. Advocates for a ban do not call for the destruction or confiscation of any ivory items in existing collections or personal possession. We support exemptions in certain categories, such as allowing museums to obtain and display items of historical and cultural interest, and family heirlooms of personal value would not be affected either. However, the commercial trade must be ended if we are to truly play our part in the cessation of this terrible trade.

The harm of the UK’s ivory trade extends far beyond these borders. As the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory, the UK is responsible for stimulating consumer demand globally, and especially in Hong Kong and China, two of the largest markets for legal and illegal ivory. Both countries have committed to closing their domestic ivory markets, and the US has also brought in a ban. The UK should show solidarity not only with these countries but with African countries calling for a global ban, and should honour the agreement it made at CITES CoP17 to close down all domestic ivory markets.

The UK will be hosting the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in 2018, and if a domestic ivory ban is in place by then it will greatly enhance the UK’s credibility and stature as a global leader in fighting this trade.

When we wrote to you last year we highlighted the loss of around 144,000 elephants killed over the previous 7 years, and the alarming declines in African elephant populations revealed in the Great Elephant Census. The sheer scale of such slaughter is difficult to comprehend. Elephant poaching in recent decades represents the most brutal and sustained wildlife massacre of our time. The wholesale and indiscriminate killing has shattered social structures and family bonds, erasing generations of accumulated knowledge and survival skills. If poaching continues at current rates, elephants will disappear completely across the African continent, possibly within our lifetimes.

Prime Minister, we call on you to send a message to the world that the UK will not stand by while tens of thousands of elephants are slaughtered every year. We urge your government to take immediate steps to implement a ban on all commercial ivory trade in the UK, starting with the requisite consultation.

We’re at a critical crossroads for elephants’ survival. Future generations deserve to share the world with these magnificent creatures. Prime Minister, this is your chance to take a firm stand that will be saluted at home and the world over, and to ensure the UK plays its part in protecting wild elephants for generations to come.

Thank you for your attention and consideration.


Maria Mossman
Action for Elephants UK

And the undersigned

Dr Jane Goodall DBE
Founder the Jane Goodall Institute
& UN Messenger of Peace

Lord Hague of Richmond

Duncan McNair
CEO, Save The Asian Elephants

Charlie Mayhew MBE
Chief Executive Tusk Trust

Virginia McKenna OBE
Founder, Born Free Foundation

Ingrid Newkirk
Founder, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Dr Mark Pilgrim
CEO, Chester Zoo

Mary Rice
Executive Director, Environmental Investigation Agency

John Sauven
Executive Director, Greenpeace UK

Dame Daphne Sheldrick
Founder & Chair, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

John Stephenson
CEO, Stop Ivory

Will Travers OBE
President, Born Free Foundation

Rory Young
Co-founder, Chengeta Wildlife

Felix Olusola Abayomi
Founder/CEO, Wildlife of Africa Conservation Initiative, Nigeria

Rosemary Alles
Co-founder, Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

Damian Aspinall
Chairman, The Aspinall Foundation

Bill Bailey
Actor and author

Jonathan Bartley
Joint Leader, UK Green Party

Claire Bass
Executive Director, Humane Society International UK

Sport Beattie
Founder and CEO, Game Rangers International

Reinhard Behrend
Founder and Director, Rainforest Rescue

Prof David Bellamy
Conservation Foundation

Karen Botha
CEO, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Scott Blais
Co-founder, Global Sanctuary for Elephants

Richard Bonham
Director of Operations, Big Life Foundation

Rob Brandford
Director, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust iworry Campaign

Anne Brummer
CEO Save Me Trust

Gordon Buchanan
Wildlife Photographer and Conservationist

Gaston Buh Wung
GIS Coordinator, WWF Cameroon

Nicky Campbell OBE
Broadcaster and journalist

Jilly Cooper

Brian Cox

Jan Creamer
President, Animal Defenders International (ADI)

Dr Mahinda Deegalle
Buddhist scholar, Reader in Study of Religions, Philosophies and Ethics at Bath Spa University

Lee Durrell
Honorary Director, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

Dr Keith Dutlow, BVSc MRCVS & Dr Lisa Marabini, BVSc MRCVS
Directors, AWARE Trust, Zimbabwe

Peter Egan
Actor and Animal Activist

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Journalist, broadcaster

Daniela Freyer
Co-Founder, Pro Wildlife

Toni Frohoff, PhD
Elephant Scientist, In Defense of Animals

Ricky Gervais
Writer and producer

Inga Gibson
The Aloha Coalition

Raabia Hawa
Founder and CEO, Walk with Rangers & Ulinzi Africa Foundation

Mark Hiley
Co-founder, National Park Rescue

Iris Ho
Wildlife Program Manager
Humane Society International

Dr Lynn Johnson
Founder, Breaking The Brand & Founder, Nature Needs More

Stanley Johnson
Author and Co-Chairman, Environmentalists for Europe

Dr Trevor Jones
Director, Southern Tanzania Elephant Program

Dr Paula Kahumbu
CEO Wildlife Direct

Max and Josh Kauderer
Founders, Elephant Highway

Laurene K. Knowles
Founder, President Elemotion Foundation

Rob Laidlaw
Executive Director, Zoocheck Inc.

Phyllis C. Lee
Professor of Psychology
Behaviour and Evolution Research Group, University of Stirling

Joanna Lumley

Barbara Mackraz
Founder & Director, Olive Seed Foundation

Philip Mansbridge
Regional Director – United Kingdom
IFAW – International Fund for Animal Welfare

Dr Brian May CBE
Save Me Trust

Dr Niall McCann
Co-founder, National Park Rescue

Chris Mercer
Director, Campaign Against Canned Hunting

Christine Mulholland
Founder, Generation Awakening

Dr Katarzyna Nowak
Research Associate Zoology & Entomology
University of the Free State, Qwaqwa, South Africa

Sue Olsen
Founder, Olsen Animal Trust

Paul Oxton
Founder/Director – South Africa
WHWF – Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

Asgar Pathan
Executive Director-Care for the Wild Kenya

Donalea Patman
Founder, For the Love of Wildlife

Joaquin Phoenix

Hannah Pollock & Jamie Unwin
Founders of Stand Up for Nature

Ruth Powys Ganesh
CEO, Elephant Family

Ian Redmond OBE
Independent Wildlife Biologist
Co-Founder of the Elefriends campaign (1989) and Ambassador
for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species

Dan Richardson
Actor and conservationist

Linda Rimington
Co-Founder, Save the Asian Elephants

Professor Alice Roberts
Biological anthropologist, author and broadcaster

John Roberts
Director of Elephants, Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation

Caroline Ruane
CEO, Naturewatch Foundation

Priya Sawhney
Communications Director, Direct Action Everywhere

William Shatner

Susan Sheward MBE
Founder, Orangutan Appeal UK

The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith
Bishop of St Albans

Elizabeth Steinbart
Founder and Director of Elephantopia

The Earl of Stockton
Co-founder, Save the Asian Elephants

Anneka Svenska
Wildlife Broadcaster & Conservationist

Yvette Taylor
Executive Director – Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization

Janet Thomas
Director, Animal Aid Abroad

Thomas Töpfer
Chairman, Rettet die Elefanten Afrikas e.V.

Horace Trubridge
General Secretary, Musicians’ Union

Vera Weber
President and CEO, Fondation Franz Weber

Peter H Wrege
Director, Elephant Listening Project
Cornell University

Ruth Powys Ganesh
CEO, The Elephant Family

Janet Thomas
Director, Animal Aid Abroad

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