Ivory Bill

Written evidence submitted by a person who wishes to remain anonymous (IVB11)


I write in an individual capacity as the owner of an antique ivory artefact that I will be prohibited from trading should the Government’s proposed ivory bill be implemented in its current form. I write to respectfully request that the Government considers the adverse impact the proposed bill will have on individuals and their property, and to respectfully request that the Government considers a suitable exemption for antique artefacts of cultural, artistic or historical value or introduces plans for compensation for the property that it has made worthless.

The Artefact

I am the owner of a Chinese idol statute which I inherited from my father several years ago, which is made wholly of antique ivory. The statue has been identified as late 18th century and most likely originated from Canton China. It was acquired by my father in the 1960s in Keswick and was identified and valued in the 1970s. I have retained these records knowing legal and moral importance of evidencing that an item is ancient ivory rather than modern day ivory.

My late father was a zoologist, and therefore I respectfully submit that his acquisition of the statue was not for the value of ivory, but was due to his interest in Asian gods. As an ex member of the Indian army he collected and studied Asian idols in different materials, including bronze, brass, gold and in this case, ivory. The material was incidental and reflective of the practice of the time. The value of the items was their cultural and historical importance. It was more important to my father to know which gods were depicted and where they were made. The raw material from which they were made was irrelevant.

After the death of my parents, I inherited the statue, and it formed part of the estate for valuation purposes. Many items such as books and furniture were sold for financial reasons. However, as this particular piece was sentimental and I understood would increase in value, I kept this piece and hoped I would not be forced to sell this piece so I could pass it on to my children. However, I also am aware that it is worth several thousand pounds, which is a phenomenal amount of money to me. I am a pensioner and do not have many items of value. I have therefore always knowns that should I be required to raise funds, I had this item as security.

The Impact on the Government’s Proposed Ban

I now understand that the Government’s ivory ban will make it illegal for me to sell this piece. I have been advised by my family that I must either make the decision to sell the piece now so that I have the money should I need it in the future or accept that if I want to keep the item for sentimental reasons I will lose the limited ability I have to raise a few thousand pounds should I need to. This is an extremely distressing position, particularly given the speed at which the Government seems to be passing this ban. I also understand that the value of the item has decreased already, as a result of the Government’s announcement. I am extremely concerned that this will affect the insurance value of my piece to the extent that should this item be stolen or damaged, I would not even be able to recover anything on my insurance.

I do not understand the distinction between the different items that the Government has chosen to create exemptions to protect and those it has chosen to ban, particularly where they both contain antique ivory included in an artistic or historical item (such as a statue vs a musical instrument). I cannot imagine that the Government has evidence that the sale of antique statues contributes to illegal poaching of elephants any more than the sale of portrait miniatures of the same age does. I would be extremely surprised if anyone could demonstrate this is the case. I therefore find it rather illogical that the Government should determine that one of my only valuable items, a Chinese statue, should now be worthless, but allow another item, such as a musical instrument to be sold, when the ivory in both items may be exactly the same age. Further the motives for owning and collecting these two items is the same, an interest and a passion.

Impact of the Ban

I understand that individuals can still own and gift items, which to me seems only to benefit those wealthier individuals who may never need to sell their possessions, or who have a great deal of choice. My item is not so significant that it belongs in a museum, but it is something my father studied, researched and treasured for its cultural and historical value. I have done the same which is why I am extremely concerned that for financial reasons, I may be forced to sell now, for fear that I may need the money in the future.

Finally, I understand that this ban represents a change in the law that has been well established for many years. I inherited the statue and have kept the statue knowing that it was legal to keep it and if needed, to sell it in the EU provided I could show it was antique. I am surprised that the Government can so easily change the law the make people’s personal property worthless and to make the rules in the UK much tighter and stricter than the rest of the EU. I am also concerned as to the speed that this is happening, as even as a relatively well-informed individual, I have struggled to keep up with the process and grasp the adverse effect it will have on me and others in my situation. It strikes me that the law be in force before many people have realised the impact it has on them.

I respectfully request that the Government considers my evidence and circumstances and either considers how it will compensate individuals in my situation or considers a way to extend the proposed exemptions so that antique ivory such as my statute can still be traded provided it can be demonstrated as antique.

I end by saying I agree with the Government’s objective to tackle ivory poaching and protect elephants for future generations, but I respectfully disagree that banning the sale of antique ivory artworks is a proportionate way to achieve this very worthy objective.

June 2018


Prepared 14th June 2018