DEFRA – IVORY BILL – 4 June 2018
[The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Michael Gove): ... The hon. Lady’s [Kerry McCarthy's] intervention also gives me an opportunity to thank our own armed services. As the Defence Secretary pointed out, only last week we dispatched more trained military personnel to support the work of rangers on the ground. That capacity of a country like ours to work together and use our expertise alongside the commitment of those from African nations will help us turn the tide and beat back the poachers.
Dr Julian Lewis rose –
Michael Gove: With that, I am more than happy to give way to my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence.]
Dr Julian Lewis: Among the tens of thousands of people who responded to the consultation were my constituents, Susie Laan and Louise Ravula, who are part of a small but effective organisation called Two Million Tusks, representing the million elephants slaughtered in the past 100 years. They did some original research that showed that, in 72 auction houses covering 180 lots of ivory, 90% of the sales of those lots were unable to prove the provenance – in other words, the dating to pre-1947 – of the ivory, which is a legal requirement for the sale of ivory at the moment. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that research proves that we need a pretty comprehensive ban if we cannot tell the date of the product being sold?
[The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Michael Gove): My right hon. Friend makes the next important point in the chain of argument for legislation. Yes, we have restrictions at the moment, but they do not work. The existence of the current legal market allows illegally obtained ivory to pass as legally acceptable ivory or worked ivory for sale. In effect, that means that criminal organisations and those who are driven by the significant profits to be made by selling ivory into markets where there is a demand can use the weakness of the existing provision to pass illegal material off as legal. That is why we need to act.
The need to act, to be more precise and to change the burden of expectation is critical in the minds of all those who responded to the consultation and of those African and other leaders who are pressing action on us. They want to ensure that we take steps to communicate to the world that ivory should not be sold, trafficked or displayed in a way that encourages anyone to think that African elephant ivory is a good of ostentation that someone could derive pleasure from demonstrating their wealth by acquiring. The whole point about the trade in elephant tusks is that it is abhorrent and involves unspeakable cruelty, and every possible step needs to be taken to stop it.]