The British Museum is arguing that the Duke of Cambridge’s support of a total ban on ivory trade would harm its collection of “indispensable” treasures.
The UK government is currently considering a UK-wide ban on the sale of all carved ivory objects. Currently, only modern objects made after 1947 are illegal. The new legislation would mean that all ivory made objects would be illegal.
Experts, however, have opposed this legislation, with the British Museum claiming that there was no “public benefit” in restricting the display and transport of ivory art made before 1947. Some, such as historian David Starkey, claim that a total ban would essentially be “cultural vandalism.”
The ivory collection in the British Museum includes the 3,000-year-old Nimrud Ivories which were excavated in the mid 20th century, as well as the Benin Ivories which date from the 15th and 16th century. Ivory pieces “are integral pieces of the collection and play an indispensable part in the museum’s presentation of the history of human cultural achievement,” a spokesman for the British Museum said.
The British Museum was keen to emphasise that they “support any efforts to protect elephants in Africa and Asia and kerb the illegal trade and export of ivory, but we are also clear that this should not include antique ivory works of art. There is no public benefit in restricting the display or movement of ivory works of art made before 1947, and legislation should not extend to cover actions carried out before this date.”
Prince William is a strong conservationist and has supported similar bans in the past. Last November, William spoke at an international conference on the illegal wildlife trade that “ivory treated as a commodity is the fuel of extinction.”
“So the question is: why are we still trading it? We need governments to send a clear signal that trading in ivory is abhorrent.”
The ivory trade, while still massively common, has come under attack from countries where the trade plays a large part. Most recently, China said that they would ban all ivory trade by 2017; it is estimated that 70% of the world’s trade ends up in China.
It is clear that the view of Prince William is at odds with those expressed by the British Museum.