Return of ivory trade as Britain backs China

A A A

China was given permission to become a licensed buyer of ivory yesterday, provoking widespread condemnation from environmentalists and politicians, who said the move was a grave threat to the future of wild elephants in Africa and Asia.

The British Government came in for fierce criticism after voting – as forecast by The Independent – for China at a UN meeting in Geneva, despite opposition from several African countries.

The Green MEP Caroline Lucas called the vote "a dark and irrevocable stain on the UK's wildlife conservation record overseas".

The vote, at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), gives China the right to buy ivory auctioned by four southern African countries, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Environmentalists claim that the entry of China into the market will provide a substantial opportunity for the laundering of illegal ivory, and provide the impetus for further poaching across Africa, where more than 20,000 elephants are illegally killed every year.

China is the centre of the world's illegal ivory trade, although the government is cracking down on it.

The vote on its approved buyer status was won by nine votes to two, with two abstentions. Britain voted in favour with Bulgaria, on behalf of the European Union. Australia and New Zealand voted against, and several African countries spoke out passionately against the move, including Kenya, Mali and Ghana.

However, it was defended robustly last night by Britain's minister for Wildlife, Joan Ruddock, who took ultimate responsibility for the UK position. Ms Ruddock said that China had now met the conditions laid down to allow countries to take part in the auction.

"In 2002 an international agreement was reached to allow African states to undertake a one-off sale of their legally held ivory stocks," she said. "Criteria were established for trading partners. The EU today accepted that China had met the criteria. Any other form of ivory sales remains illegal under international law.

"China has satisfied the Cites Standing Committee that it has established robust controls to manage the legally stockpiled ivory to ensure it is not exported from and is effectively monitored within China. This one-off sale is only from elephants that have not died as a result of poaching. China has shown itself willing to crack down on illegal ivory trading and we expect them to continue to do so."

Many of Ms Ruddock's parliamentary colleagues expressed anger and dismay at Britain's vote. Eliot Morley, one of Ms Ruddock's predecessors as Wildlife minister, said: "This strikes me as a very bad move. It does open the prospect of a return to the large-scale illegal ivory trade."

Howard Stoate, MP for Dartford and parliamentary private secretary to Estelle Morris when she was Culture minister, said: "It is outrageous. There is no justification for it whatever. I think it is a very retrograde step."

Ian Gibson, former Labour chairman of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, said: "Every animal lover in the country will abhor this decision. I just wonder what excuse Gordon Brown will give."

MPs were threatening to table a protest motion against the Government for supporting China in the vote. More than 150 MPs of all parties signed a cross-party motion calling for the Government not to vote for China to be given a licence to trade in ivory.

Environmentalists were even more critical. Allan Thornton of the Environmental Investigation Agency, which provided much of the evidence for the original ban in 1989, said: "This is a sad day for those who love wildlife and who believe that human society has an ethical responsibility to conserve species that are being destroyed by human activities."

Robbie Marsland, UK director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: "It is appalling... The UK should have shown leadership in the EU to protect elephants from the slaughter at the hands of poachers that will inevitably result from this decision."

Suggested Topics
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all