Ivory ban: UK Government responds to consultation

15 October 2021

What is the Ivory Act 2018?

The UK Government will be using information provided by findings of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation to bring forward secondary legislation to implement the Ivory Act 2018.

The Ivory Act received Royal Assent in December 2018, but implementation was delayed due to unsuccessful legal challenges.

Ivory Act 2018

The purpose of the Act is to stop commercial activities involving ivory in the UK and the import and re-export of ivory for commercial purposes to and from the UK. Essentially the legislation will ban the dealing of items made of, or containing elephant ivory, regardless of their age.

The legislation will:

  • remove the financial value of ivory
  • reduce the opportunity for new ivory to be laundered through legal markets
  • reduce the flow of ivory from the UK to overseas markets
  • send a clear message that the UK does not consider ivory to be an acceptable commodity
  • encourage other countries to take similar action

The consultation, which ran from 9 March 2021 to 4 May 2021, set out proposals for implementing the UK Ivory Ban including commencing the ban, implementation of exemptions and the information required and fees for registrations of exempt items.   The consultation was conducted on a UK-wide basis, where powers are to be exercised by the appropriate national authority in devolved administrations.  Defra consulted on their behalf with their agreement.

UK Government response

Concerns raised within the consultation included fears that the lack of date for the Act to come into force would lead to continuing trade, with some respondents highlighting their belief that the Act should come into play as soon as possible.

The response from Defra indicated that it is the responsibility of the owner to assure themselves that the item meets the exemption criteria and declare this as part of the registration process.

It was also clarified that in order to be exempt the item in its current state will have to be below the percentage threshold for ivory by volume. If it exceeds this then it will not qualify for exemption.

In relation to the group registration process, items must individually meet exemption terms and be individually photographed to show distinguishing features – if not able to capture all distinguishing features in one photograph, then more than one photograph is necessary.

Defra also clarified that, under the Act, ownership of items that do not meet the exemption criteria, or owners who do not wish to apply for an exemption certificate, will not be impacted. A person can still own an item, or gift, donate or bequeath it to another individual or organisation or sell or hire it to a qualifying museum.

Submitting a false registration could also render the person who is registering the item liable to prosecution for a fraud offence.

Importantly, there will be an awareness raising campaign to support the introduction of the registration and certification processes and provide information to help businesses and individuals comply with the ban.

The UK Government will be bringing forward secondary legislation to implement the Ivory Act in line with their response to the consultation.