Nick Herbert calls for action against ivory trade

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has called on the Government to send a "clear signal" to the world by supporting a permanent ban on ivory sales and destroying stockpiles.

In 2008, stockpiles of ivory were sold to Japan and China but some African countries, including Kenya, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, have proposed to ban any further discussion about these so-called "one-off sales" for 20 years.

Following pressure from Conservatives the Government have made clear their plans to oppose yet further sales proposed by Tanzania and Zambia, but have refused to back the 20 year moratorium or a destruction of stockpiles.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday (4 February), the Shadow Environment Secretary urged the Government to show leadership on the issue when it attends an international conference next month.

Mr Herbert, who last year visited India to see the impact of poaching on elephant numbers, said: "At the last Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference, the Government failed to oppose ivory stockpile sales, failed to oppose China's inclusion as a buyer and failed to support bans on sales in the future.  Poaching has risen sharply, elephant numbers in many countries are in decline, and there are links with terrorism.  

"Yesterday's illegal trade was blood diamonds; today's is blood ivory.  Why are the Government not supporting African nations that are calling for a binding 20-year moratorium on ivory sales?"

Government Minister Huw Irranca-Davies said that he wanted to monitor the impact of the "one-off" sale of ivory in 2008 before making any further decisions.

Mr Herbert replied: "The Minister is not sending a clear signal.  We should be choking the ivory market, not stoking it.  Where is the morality behind selling stockpiles of an illegally traded good just because it raises money?  Robert Mugabe just spent the receipts on 4x4 vehicles.  Would we take the same attitude to selling seized weapons or drugs for profit?  Is it not time that the British Government showed some leadership and demanded that ivory stockpiles be destroyed once and for all?"


Notes for Editors

1. For a full transcript of the Commons debate on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, visit

2. For a recent article on the ivory trade written by Nick Herbert for The Independent, visit [link to follow]

Christopher N Howarth