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The Ivory Bill is a government bill that proposes to prohibit trading in elephant ivory, with limited exceptions. The Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 5 July 2018 by Lord Gardiner of Kimble, the Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, and is scheduled to receive its second reading on 17 July 2018.

The law currently requires an individual to obtain a permit in order to trade worked ivory items made after 1947, while items made before 1947 can be traded within the EU without a permit. It is the UK’s current policy not to issue permits for the trading of raw African ivory of any age.

Both the African Elephant and the Asian Elephant have been identified as threatened with extinction. A recent large study of trends in African elephant populations found that the number of elephants decreased by approximately 27,000 per year between 2010 and 2014, a rate of 8 percent per year. The authors of this study concluded that “these dramatic declines in elephant populations are almost certainly due to poaching for ivory”.

Clause 1 of the Bill would establish a general prohibition on trading in ivory, which is defined in clause 35 as being from the tooth or tusk of a living species of elephant. Clause 12 of the Bill would make it an offence to breach the prohibition on the trading of ivory, punishable either by criminal or civil sanctions. Exemptions to the ban, and the process of applying for these, are set out in clauses 2 to 11. This includes an exemption for items made before 1918 which are “of outstandingly high artistic, cultural or historical value”.

The Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 23 May 2018 and had its second reading on 4 June 2018. A public bill committee took evidence from witnesses and examined the Bill over six sittings, before the Bill completed its report stage and third reading in the House of Commons on 4 July 2018. The Bill received cross-party support, though the Opposition advocated for the definition of ivory to be extended to include all threatened ivory-bearing species. The Government said it would undertake a consultation on expanding the definition to include all ivory-bearing species, whether threatened or not, after the legislation was passed. Government amendments removing the restrictions on which species can later be added to the definition by statutory instrument were passed at report stage.


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