I am a longstanding campaigner for a ban on ivory sales, calling for this in 2010 when I was Shadow Environment Secretary.
So I was delighted when, this week, the Government announced a strict ban, helping to ensure that wild elephants are protected for future generations.
Since I made this commitment there has been real progress. The Government has shown strong leadership, convening a groundbreaking global summit on the illegal wildlife trade when David Cameron was Prime Minister. The UK will host another conference in the autumn.
In the House of Commons last month, I said that the demand for ivory must be choked off. There are encouraging signs that attitudes are changing. There was a breakthrough when this year China – one of the world’s biggest markets for ivory – made all trade in ivory and ivory products in the country illegal.
Action is urgently needed. Over the last decade the number of elephants has declined by almost a third, and around 20,000 a year are still being slaughtered because of the global demand for ivory. The species faces extinction in the wild, which would be a tragedy.
The ban announced this week will cover ivory items of all ages, not only that produced after a certain date. The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.
In line with the approach taken by other countries, including the US and China, there will be certain narrowly-defined and carefully-targeted exemptions for items which do not contribute to the poaching of elephants, for instance for items with only a small amount of ivory, musical instruments, exceptionally rare and important antiques, and for museums.
By covering ivory items of all ages and adopting these narrow exemptions, the UK’s ban will be one of the toughest in the world.
I am vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Endangered Species, and I have worked with the International Fund for Animal Welfare to urge Ministers to take action. The ivory ban follows the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan, a new Clean Air Fund, the introduction of mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses, increased maximum sentences for animal cruelty, and innovative new plans to introduce a deposit return and recycling scheme for drinks containers.
The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, should be congratulated for the leadership he has shown on environmental issues.
You can find further information, including the highlights of my diary each week, on my website: www.nickherbert.com.
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