Conservatives quietly bin pledge to ban ivory trade in 2017 manifesto

Government accused of bowing to pressure from powerful antiques industry lobby

Around 20,000 elephants are killed by poaching in Africa every year, which means an elephant is killed every 25 minutes.
Around 20,000 elephants are killed by poaching in Africa every year, which means an elephant is killed every 25 minutes.

Theresa May has been accused of quietly scrapping a Conservative pledge to ban the ivory trade in the UK.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to “press for a total ban on ivory sales” in his 2015 manifesto, echoing a previous promise made in 2010 to eradicate the bloodthirsty practice.

However 2017’s Tory manifesto, released ahead of 8 June’s general election, makes no mention of the pledge.

Instead, the Prime Minister made a general vow to protect endangered species and the marine environment.

Around 20,000 elephants are killed by poaching in Africa every year, which means an elephant is killed every 25 minutes.

The U-turn has led to accusations the Government is bowing to powerful lobbying pressure from the antiques industry.

British Antique Dealers’ Association President and Conservative politician Lady Victoria Borwick rallied against any proposed ban in 2016.

She told MPs during a debate on the subject: “Any ban on antique ivory is cultural vandalism, virtually akin to placing a ban on old books because they may be made from paper that came originally from now-endangered trees or antique furniture made from mahogany.”

Mimi Bekhechi, director at animal rights charity PETA, told The Independent the overwhelming majority of voters want to see a ban on the trade.

“As long as animals continue to be beaten into performing in circuses, slaughtered for their ivory, or face being torn apart on fox hunts, PETA will continue to stand with the majority of the British people and urge any future government to do the right thing, whether it pledges to do so in its manifesto or not,” she said.

In 2015, the Government announced a ban on the sale of all ivory pieces produced after 1947. The law already made it illegal to sell ivory from elephants killed after 1947 but a loophole allowed dealers to claim the item was classified as “antique”, or produced before 1947, without showing any evidence.

Conservation groups, politicians and celebrities, including Prince William, said the move would not stop the illegal killing of thousands of elephants, and urged the Government to implement a total ban on all ivory trade.

The Labour Party introduced a pledge for a “total ban on ivory trading” in its 2017 manifesto.

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