Why has Theresa May ditched a pledge to ban ivory trading?

Strange news: Theresa May has decided to drop a Tory pledge to push for a total ban on trading (only the sale of ivory items produced after 1947 is prohibited). Why would she do that? Doesn’t she need votes?

I thought nearly everyone loved elephants – who votes for helping to wipe them out? Apparently, wealthy antiques dealers. Lady (Victoria) Borwick, the Tory candidate for Kensington and the president of the British Antique Dealers’ Association, is an acquaintance of the PM; perhaps she was whom May had in mind.

This makes me feel horribly sick. Although Borwick and her colleagues are primarily concerned with pieces from the pre-1947 era, the fact these items remain in circulation arguably has a knock-on effect on how is perceived. An is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory, with more being shot for fun by big-game hunters.

What is it with these hunters? I don’t know what is worse – elephants to make pointless little trinkets or paying squillions to hunt them and wanting to pose with their corpses. Apparently, the hunters adore the “adventure”.

But you can have thrilling adventures without anything. We don’t need the hounds to rip foxes apart. We can hunt human runners with bloodhounds in the countryside – blowing horns, dressed in red coats, galloping across the green, rolling hills. When the hounds catch the runners, they just give them a kiss. No magnificent species has to be wiped out or hurt.

‘An is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory’ … part of Zimbabwe’s stockpile. Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

And if you think I shouldn’t be droning on about saving animals when we can’t even save refugees and children’s lunches, it might be worth knowing that elephants help us. They spread the seeds of plants and trees, conserve land, dig wells and help to preserve our planet.

Now, just as a chink of hope has appeared, with China promising to ban the domestic trade and processing of by the end of 2017, our leader is promising the reverse. Shame. “I think it’s 100% misguided,” says Fielding, sensibly. “What are her advisers thinking?” Not much. Elephants could probably do better. They have language, intelligence and long-term memory and show empathy. Just what we need.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 22 May 2017.


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