As the largest exporter of ivory in Europe, as well as allowing a thriving ivory trade at home, the UK played a major role in feeding consumer demand for ivory. In auction houses, antique stores, market stalls, and online sales, ivory was traded openly in countless outlets. This trade served as cover for the illegal ivory trade, which was barely being monitored. With so much legal and illegal trade going on, it was clear that the UK had a complicit role in the ongoing cycle of supply and demand. But the antiques trade maintained this wasn’t the case and put up fierce opposition to the ban at every step.
Action for Elephants fought for a UK ivory ban from 2014 and was the only group taking action on the streets, with protests outside embassies, at auction houses, outside DEFRA, and at Downing St and Parliament. We held some 14 protests to demand a ban on ivory trade, wrote numerous letters to two prime ministers, replied to all the government consultations, and met with MPs and representatives of the antiques trade. Our role in pushing for the most stringent of bans was acknowledged in the government’s 2017 and 2018 Briefing Papers on ivory trade.
The UK was the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory, including to China and Hong Kong, making it a key player in the trade that was wiping out Africa’s elephants.