A proposed end to the UK ivory trade


We welcome government plans to ban sales of ivory of all ages, an important step towards ending the UK’s contribution to the ivory trade.

African elephant roaming

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has proposed a plan to ban the sale of ivory items of all ages in the UK.

This is fantastic news for elephant conservation. The UK is one of the largest exporters of ‘legal’ ivory, so a national ban may have a large impact on the illegally-poached ivory trade. It’s believed that the current size of the legal trade is a driver behind the market for illegal ivory.

Around 20,000 elephants a year are slaughtered to meet the worldwide demand for ivory, and the last decade has seen the elephant population decline by almost a third. This level of poaching could lead to these majestic animals eventually going extinct in African countries.

We look forward to contributing to the consultation

Paul Littlefair, head of our international department said:

We very much welcome the government’s plans to ban sales of ivory of all ages. The ending of the UK domestic ivory trade is long overdue and we applaud Mr Gove for introducing such a strong proposal.

The UK is the world’s largest exporter of ‘legal’ ivory – most of which goes to Asian destinations such as mainland China and Hong Kong. But the legal trade fuels demand for illegal ivory, causing horrendous suffering to the 20,000 African elephants killed each year by poachers.

Today’s announced consultation on a total ban on ivory sales is a welcome step towards ending the UK’s contribution to the ivory trade. We’ve long campaigned for a complete ivory ban and we look forward to contributing to the consultation.

We call on the public to take part in the consultation and for the ban to be in force in time for the next Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference to be hosted by the UK Government in autumn 2018.

Conditions of the ban

Whilst we do already have a ban on the trade in raw ivory tusks, we are the world’s leading exporter of legal ivory carvings and antiques.

Current UK regulations allow the sale of worked ivory produced before 1947, which continues to fuel the demand and can act as a cover for the illegal trade. These new proposals are for a ban on ivory of all ages.

There are some exemptions to the newly proposed ban. Musical instruments, items with only a small proportion of ivory and items of significant cultural value will still be legally tradable. Sales between museums will also continue to be permitted.

Next steps

It’s been a fortnight of incredible news for animal welfare in the UK, following the government's announcement on the toughening up of animal cruelty sentences last friday.

The 12-week consultation on Michael Gove’s proposal will begin immediately, and it’s likely that there will be draft legislation on the ban in the new year.

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