It is a catchy if somewhat inaccurate headline. In truth this government did not ‘ban ivory’. Ivory was banned 48 years ago, in 1975, under CITES.
What the government did in 2018, under extreme lobbying and popular media pressure, was pass an act which removed the pre-1947 exemption for all antique works of art containing in whole or part elephant ivory. An exemption originally put in place solely for the protection of historic objects.
However, this more honest rendering of the recent actions and intentions of Government is rarely heard as it may not prove to be such a popular electoral soundbite.
The simple pre-1947 safeguard was replaced with a costly and bureaucratic system, then only for the most minimal and draconian de minimis possible, which after almost a year seems to have only achieved one sole outcome: the destruction of genuine antiques. Nothing more. Now we hear another class of objects may be added to this list.
There is scarcely a person within the antiques trade that doesn’t deplore the modern-day trafficking of any wildlife specimens; we British are a nation of animal lovers.
The recent removal of the exemption for antiques has proved to be just a false target in attempts to crack down on modern-day poaching.
It achieved nothing – NOTHING – in dissuading modern-day criminal gangs in distant global markets. Its only effect is the loss of all our history, the physical daily destruction of antiques, not trinkets, not souvenirs, not as Stephen Fry described them, “baubles”, but the physical material culture of our entire past.
Objects made by the distant generations of our own past families, possibly the only testament to their existence, works of art wrought with a lifetime’s skill, things of beauty.
That a government or a wildlife lobby group could be so cavalier in now endangering even more of our history, in dangling more of it over the precipice of vandalism, in light of the entirely ineffectual nature of the 2018 act, beggars belief.
I would hope now that the government, rather than extending this ill-thought-out legislation to cover even more antiques, draws breath, takes pause and looks honestly at the merits of returning to the original 1975 CITES parameters which genuinely targeted the modern-day illegal global market, rather than criminalising your great aunt in Tunbridge Wells trying to sell a Georgian silver teapot.
We are now keeping score of what is being lost, day by day, hour by hour and at some point today’s politicians, those who now recklessly push ahead with this, will be held publicly responsible for one of the greatest acts of cultural vandalism ever willingly undertaken in the history of Western civilisation.
Not a legacy I would think any sane person would ever want to own.
The Antiques Rescue Centre