It is shocking to hear that over the last decade the number of elephants has declined by almost a third.
Elephants are recognised as being among the most intelligent creatures on earth. They are capable of a range of emotions, including joy, playfulness, grief and mourning. In addition, elephants are able to learn new facts and behaviours, mimic sounds that they hear, self-medicate, play with a sense of humour, perform artistic activities, use tools and display compassion and self-awareness.
20,000 of these incredible creatures are still being slaughtered every year due to the global demand for ivory that is one every 25 minutes. Poaching is driven by consumer demand for ivory and urgent and decisive action is needed to combat this problem. This Bill sends a clear message that we as a civilised country cannot let this continue.
In September 2017, I and other colleagues, signed a letter from Action for Elephants UK to the Prime Minister asking the Government to end to the Ivory Trade and I am glad that they have listened. It is our duty to leave our planet in a better state for our children and this Bill is an important step. I don’t want my son, Clifford, to grow up in a world without elephants and I believe this Bill will aid in making sure that doesn’t happen.
Antique ivory has been used by some to justify the continuation of trade, but Ivory makes up only a tiny proportion of the antiques sold in this country and we've seen ivory artificially aged which makes identification difficult. Legal markets in older ivory can also be used by criminals to launder freshly poached ivory by passing it off as antique. We cannot allow this to happen in the UK.
Some critics of this Bill have said this will harm our cultural heritage, I feel this is claim is unfounded. We are not calling for the destruction or confiscation of any ivory items in collections. Museums will continue to be allowed to display their artefacts and sales between museums will be allowed, family heirlooms of personal value will not be affected either. It is the commercial trade which needs to end if we are truly to play our part in helping to save elephants.
The ivory trade ban has huge public support, with 95% of respondents polled in a 2017 YouGov survey saying they had no interest in buying antique ivory, and, 88% of respondents to Defra’s consultation exercise having expressed support for a ban on UK ivory sales. Tusk Trust, WWF, the Zoological Society of London and Stop Ivory all welcomed the announcement of this Bill, with John Stephenson, CEO of Stop Ivory called it a “momentous step”.
This Bill will place the UK at the forefront of global efforts to protect elephants and will reassert the UK’s leadership role on conservation issues. I am pleased to hear that in October, the UK will further demonstrate global leadership on this important issue by hosting the fourth international conference on illegal wildlife trade.
This Bill further confirms this Government's commitment to enhancing animal welfare standards across the board. This ban will be one of the toughest in the world and I praise the Secretary of States leadership on this important issue. It is vital that we end the trade in ivory to ensure elephants and other animals are protected for future generations, this Bill goes a long way to making that happen.