New Antique Ivory Regulations – The British Antique Dealer’s Association

Apr 03

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 10.50.05 AMANTIQUE IVORY – FURTHER INFORMATION

Please find below, for those members who are interested, further information about antique ivory trade developments over the past few weeks.

1. Antique ivory trade in the UK and EU

As I confirmed in my last email to members there are no changes to the existing provisions on the sale, import or export of antique ivory items in the United Kingdom. Dealers can continue to sell pre-1947 worked items without a licence, because of the so-called antique exemption, and can still apply for CITES import or re-export permits for antique ivory items from AHVLA in Bristol.

However, we are all aware that the London Illicit Wildlife Trade conference has unleashed considerably more interest in the subject of antique ivory, not least following the Duke of Cambridge’s alleged remarks about destroying the ivory in the Royal Collection. This gave rise to more thoughtful contrary views expressed in a number of British newspaper articles, including one in The Times on 17 February 2014 by Melanie Phillips, who concluded that such destruction of antique pieces would not save a single elephant, and described as fanciful the notion that the symbolism of the ban would deter poachers.

Despite this sensible reaction the following precautionary measures have also been undertaken to ensure that our politicians are kept “on message” about the distinction between antique and modern ivory, and the impact of disproportionate restrictions on the former:

• Antique ivory dossier. With help from the membership we have compiled a short dossier for the benefit of civil servants and politicians, illustrating some examples of the wide range of antiques and cultural artefacts that incorporate ivory, whether in large or small quantities. This has been shared with our colleagues in the United States. I do not think that many politicians are aware of the way in which ivory has been used down the centuries. The core underlying message of the dossier is that ivory appears in hundreds of thousands of cultural artefacts and that restricting trade in it represents both an act of cultural vandalism as well as a practical impossibility.

• Minister for culture. Ed Vaizey, MP, the minister for culture (working below the culture secretary, Maria Miller), paid a visit to the BADA Fair and was given a guided tour of the fair by fair director, Gillian Craig, and me. The tour provided the opportunity for us to point out on exhibitors’ stands the numerous examples of antique ivory which are commonly found in antiques. The minister’s interest in the loan exhibition of military portrait miniatures provided a particularly appropriate moment to note that many of these works of art had been executed on ivory. To further reinforce the message the chairman of the British Art Market Federation, Anthony Browne, will shortly have an opportunity to speak to Mr Vaizey about antique ivory.

There will of course be other action that can be taken to address the issue of public opinion in the United Kingdom. Now that dealers have returned from TEFAF Maastricht and the BADA Fair has ended I am arranging a meeting that will allow a discussion about this to take place, so that all interested parties in the UK can work towards the same goals. The need for this has been highlighted by Wednesday 26 March’s edition of The One Show on BBC One, in which Bill Travers of the Born Free Foundation supervised the crushing of ivory trinkets and carvings sent in by the public:

(Unfortunately this programme cannot be viewed later than 8.56 pm on Wednesday 2nd April.)

2. The US ban on the import and certain trade in African elephant ivory

Since my last message there have been a number of developments in respect of the US announcements.

• Published articles. A number of influential American journals have published articles decrying the US government’s proposals. These have included:

Doug Bandow in Forbes Magazine on 17 February 2014 – “Obama Administration Treats Antique Collectors And Dealers As Criminals” collectors-and-dealers-as-criminals-new-ivory-rules-put-elephants-at-increased-risk/

Doug Bandow again in Forbes Magazine, this time on 17 March 2014 – “The Administration’s New Ivory Ban” from-the-government-and-im-here-to-kill-elephants-and-treat-americans-as-criminals/

Tom Mashberg in The New York Times on 20 March 2014 – “Limits on Ivory Sales, Meant to Protect Elephants, Set Off Wide Concerns” concerns.html?_r=0

Godfrey Harris and Daniel Stiles in The New York Times on 26 March 2014 – “The Wrong Way to Protect Elephants”

• Defra and FWS dialogue. Clarity concerning the operation of the new rules is still being sought by all parties. Defra in the UK says that they too are being told by officials in the US

government’s Fish and Wildlife Service or “FWS” (the body which administers CITES in the US) that there remains uncertainty over how the rules will actually work in practice.

• Definition of ‘commercial’ imports. According to the Fish and Wildlife website questions and answers page the import ban applies only to ‘commercial’ and not to ‘non-commercial’ imports. Clarification is still being sought as to whether, as appeared to be the case in California, a private person, such as a collector, may make a purchase outside the United States and have the private import treated as ‘non-commercial’. Clearly this route would not help American dealers but if confirmed it could still provide European dealers with a means of selling direct to American collectors.

• Members advised not to attempt ivory imports into US. Imports of ivory items into the United States have already ceased and are either being held by customs or returned. At present I am

not aware of any destruction of imported antique ivory objects by the authorities following the introduction of the new rules, nor have I been made aware of any distinction being made by US customs between commercial imports and non-commercial ones. Members are therefore advised not to send any ivory to the United States for the time being until the position has become clearer.

• Report from Wildlife Trafficking advisory meeting. Two of our sister associations in the United States (AADAA and the League) have made submissions to and attended a meeting of the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking on 20 March 2014. The committee was set up by President Obama last year to develop strategies for reducing illicit trade in wildlife. At the 20 March meeting the members of the Council were challenged for their failure to include those who deal with legal (e.g. antique) ivory when deliberating on their proposals. A sub-committee of the Advisory Council reported that they would be recommending considerably-increased penalties for violation of the endangered species rules; for example that wildlife trafficking be raised from ‘misdemeanour’ status to that of a ‘felony’, with a maximum punishment of five years’ imprisonment. Another sub-committee did however propose a more targeted approach to enforcement, such as improving foreign cooperation and expansion of undercover operations to target wildlife trafficking ‘kingpins’, i.e. concentrating on the new ivory trade. Representatives of musical instrument dealers, orchestras, antique dealers and auctioneers stood up and told the Council the extent of damage the restrictions would have on their lives, without saving a single African elephant, and by the end of the meeting Advisory Council members acknowledged the existence of problems with the new rules. The timing of implementation was not made clear, but the final rules are expected to be published for comment in June 2014. There would therefore appear to be an opportunity for comment to be made prior to implementation. (For members who are interested we can provide more detailed reports about all the issues outlined at the meeting).

• Possible ban on all ivory sales in New York State. A bill has been proposed by the New York State Assembly prohibiting the purchase or sale of elephant ivory and increasing the penalties for doing so in New York. Clearly this alone could seriously damage the import trade in important antiques containing ivory and therefore dealers in New York are directing their lobbying at not only Federal politicians, but also State ones.

• BADA supports US dealers’ appointment of legal adviser. The League and AADAA are expected to appoint a lawyer who has formulated a strategy, the goals of which are to: (a) oppose the FWS changes, (b) create a transparent, legal market for certified, permitted antiques, (c) propose the creation of a trade advisory panel to review and certify antique items containing ivory. In view of the serious implications of the American restrictions, both for current direct trade between the UK and the US and the potential for copycat legislation in other countries, BADA has offered to make a financial contribution towards these legal costs.

• Professional lobbyists. Some collectors of ivory have appointed a firm of Washington lobbyists. It is expected that all parties with an interest in antiques will be coordinating their approach to the problem with these lobbyists.

The Association will continue to work in conjunction with the British Art Market Federation to do our best to oppose, at the appropriate and most effective moments, the draconian measures being put forward in the United States. If finally enacted such ill-considered measures would provide, to quote one commentator, the ‘low-hanging fruit’ rather than address the real problem of demand for new ivory in Asia. Traders in legal antiques will be sacrificed without a single African elephant being saved.

Mark Dodgson

Secretary General