10 Feb

Domestic Ivory Market in the UK

Martin Levy in APOLLO MAGAZINE, February 7, 2017

On 6 February, a debate was held in Westminster Hall on the subject of the ‘Domestic Ivory Market in the UK’. The immediate catalyst for this ‘debate’, scheduled by the Petitions Committee, was the more than 100,000 signatures demanding parliamentary consideration of the motion: ‘That this House has considered e-petition 165905 relating to the domestic ivory market in the UK’.

It needs to be repeated that there is no demurring on the part of those of us speaking up for the antique ivory trade, from the opinion that endangered species need to be protected. Moreover, does any one of us know a connoisseur of works of art who does not whole-heartedly support the well-considered aims of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)? To listen to the speeches in Westminster Hall last night was often a reminder that we are now living in a world of ‘alternative facts’.

The demand of the majority of MPs was, broadly, for a ‘total ban’ on the domestic (that is UK) ivory market. Throughout, with thoughtful interventions, Rob Marris (Labour: Wolverhampton South West) asked, in so many words, the simple question: would a ban on the movement of bona fide works of art made of or including ivory save a single living elephant? The question was not answered, nor indeed effectively addressed by any of those proposing a ban.

It is worth noting that many of those who made genuine and emotional pleas to ‘save the elephant for the sake of their grandchildren’ acknowledged the cultural and personal resonance of works emanating from a multitude of cultures, across the millennia. Even some of the staunchest supporters of the conservationist position acknowledged that such objects required a measured exemption from a ‘ban’.

In a very brief intervention, following a reasoned speech in favour of a balanced and informed approach to the display of and market in bona fide works of art, Danny Kinahan (Ulster Unionist Party: South Antrim) suggested that ‘the division [between the sides was] merely semantics’. It is hard to argue with this. Victoria Borwick (Conservative: Kensington) strongly supported the case for the cultural value of works of art, as well as for the market that keeps works of art moving between collectors and museums, while enabling the pool of knowledge about ivory’s material and artistic history to spread far and wide. Both MPs prefaced their remarks with total support for elephant welfare.

Remember this simple fact: there is zero correlation between historic bona fide works of art that happen to be made of or contain ivory, and the reprehensible illicit poaching from endangered herds of African elephants. Having watched the discussion about ivory unfold over many years, but particularly following President Obama’s 2014 ‘Directors Order 210’, I have been frustrated that the animal conservation lobby has been allowed to present a binary case: it is not binary. We can preserve endangered species, and conserve those historic works of art that are an equal part of our shared cultural inheritance.

On the ‘other side’ it was suggested that collectors of, say medieval religious diptychs or baroque cups were fuelling poaching; that those engaged with the study or trade in the sort of works that often end up in public collections could not judge what was old, and that the market was awash with fakes. None of this is true.

Much was made of how the public overwhelmingly favours a ‘total ban’. But this does depend on how the question is phrased. Of course we want to ‘save the elephant’: why on earth not? But if you take the empirical evidence of the public’s engagement with works of art in museums, made of or incorporating ivory, then the answer is surely different. Over the past three years, observing families and individuals – just regular members of the public, not experts or connoisseurs – looking at ivory, for example, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna and the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, I have not seen one person turn away in horror. And, when I last enquired, the V&A had received but a single complaint about its display of ivory.

Where we agree unequivocally with the ‘conservation lobby’ is that poaching and the illicit trade in tusks is abhorrent and must be stamped out. To this end, many interested parties have spoken out in favour of the government’s proposal at the end of last year to toughen the law applied to the ivory trade, and outlaw any post-1947 ivory; hitherto exemptions have been made for some museum-quality works of art from this later period. This is a pragmatic solution to be welcomed. And, to reassure those who rightly worry about how to be sure if something was made before or after the cut off date, the answer is simple: if in doubt, cut it out.

The promised consultation will come soon. What came through strongly and quite properly from the debate was the desire for some sort of authentication process that would give confidence that the market was not a cover for the meretricious trinkets that by and large have made up the case for alarmist television broadcasts and newspaper articles. If this is what the government decides, such a process could surely be implemented.

The value of ivory works of art, that are in no way at the expense of the diminishing population of elephants, was put perfectly in a release by the Victoria and Albert Museum in advance of the Westminster Hall debate: ‘The V&A has important ivory objects of historical significance throughout its collections, including objects from the early 20th century. These predate the illegal poaching of elephants. Whilst the V&A is not actively seeking to collect early 20th century ivory, the Museum will consider acquiring objects dating prior to 1947 featuring or made from ivory where there is a strong link to the collection and within relevant regulations and guidelines.’

In summing up, Thérèse Coffey, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, reassured the 30 or so members of the House who attended the debate, that the government planned to introduce a proportionate and effective ban, and that it would consult with the conservation lobby and those involved with works of art to finalise a robust and workable set of rules.

10 Feb

What concerned Americans should know about Africa’s Elephants

Ron Thompson in a Statement to participants in the True Green Alliance (31 January 2017):

Following very successful propaganda campaigns over the last several years, orchestrated by, especially, the American “Animal Rights” lobby, the whole world has been imbued with a totally false perception about what is really happening with regard to elephants, rhinos and lions in Africa; and the consequential fall-out on all these species has been detrimental in the extreme.

First of all, the American public should be advised that propaganda has nothing to do with telling the truth. Propaganda is: “The spreading of ideas, information or rumour for the purpose of promoting an ideal – or injuring an institution, cause or person – by any means, true or false.”

Americans should also be advised that it is the stated purpose of the animal rights NGOs to ABOLISH all animal uses by man; including the banning of wildlife trade. This vision has been very effectively manipulated into huge emotional campaigns ostensibly to “save” Africa’s wildlife – especially elephants, rhinos and lions. The target audiences have been urban communities in Western cities who have no idea whatsoever about the facts of wildlife ‘conservation’ in Africa. All they know is what the animal rightists tell them in their propaganda – and so millions of honest and genuine people in the Western World have been sucked into believing everything the animal rightists tell them.

Why have so many discerning and intelligent people been so easily duped? Because that fact is part of human nature! Nevertheless, people CAN break out of the mould if they really want to!

Joseph Goebels, the Propaganda Minister for the German Third Reich during World War II, coined the phrase: “Tell a lie a thousand times and it becomes the truth.” And over the last several decades the animal rightists, in their constant propaganda, have been bombarding their victims, hundreds of thousands of times every month, with the lie that the African elephant is facing extinction. And the media – without any corroborating evidence – have climbed onto the emotional bandwagon to reinforce this terribly counterproductive fabrication.

Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that the whole world now believes that the African elephant truly faces extinction?

So, what is the real situation with regard to the African elephant?

The elephant occurs in 37 African countries which are host to150 different, separate and quite independent elephant populations. A population is defined as: “A group of animals of the same species, the individuals of which interact with each other, in continuum, on a daily basis; and which breed only with other animals in the same group.”

The circumstances (environmental pressures) applying to each population are distinctly different. This means their ‘conservation’ requirements are different. ‘Conservation’ applications that are good, relevant and desirable for one population, therefore, could be very detrimental to another. Ipso facto, each population has management ‘needs’ that are unique to itself. No single management solution “fixes” them all – which is what the animal rightists want to impose on Africa.

In effect, this scientific fact makes the “endangered species” concept – so beloved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service – a fallacy. It has no place whatsoever in the scientific practice of wildlife management.

Within the 150 elephant populations in Africa some are “UNSAFE”. This means they are low in number and declining (many due to poaching). This is the situation that, generally, applies to West Africa. If they are to survive, these populations need “preservation management” (protection from all harm).

Some populations are “SAFE”; which means they enjoy good population numbers; they are breeding well; and their numbers do not exceed the carrying capacities of their habitats. These animals should be culled annually to maintain their numbers at a level that is within the sustainable carrying capacities of their habitats. It is from these SAFE populations that small numbers of elephant bulls can be safely hunted. These populations should be managed according to “conservation management” practices. They can be sustainably “used” – hunted and harvested – for the benefit of the local rural people of Africa.

Some populations are “excessive”. This means their numbers grossly exceed the carrying capacities of their habitats; which, in turn, means they are destroying their own habitats. They are also destroying the habitats of all the other animal species which share the national parks in which they all live together. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue, it will cause the local extinction of many plants and animals; the massive loss of vital topsoil; and the elephants will turn these game reserves into deserts. Excessive populations need massive “population reduction management” – their numbers must be reduced hugely – to save the game reserve ecosystems from total collapse.

Very large numbers of elephant bulls can be hunted from excessive populations; and large numbers should be harvested constantly – to bring the numbers down to sustainable levels. THIS is ‘conservation’ reality!

The animal rightists are telling the world that the only acceptable management strategy – for ALL elephant populations in Africa – is TOTAL preservation; and total preservation leads only to one thing – the development of excessive populations. So who is right and who is wrong?

One must also understand that the Number One objective of a national park is the maintenance of its species diversity (the healthy maintenance of all the plants and animals that occur naturally within its ecosystem). Nothing else is of greater importance. And excessive elephant populations destroy biodiversity. So maintaining excessive elephant populations is holistically bad for wildlife management in Africa.

In southern Africa – south of the Zambezi and Cunene rivers – practically every elephant population is excessive; habitats are being ever more greatly destroyed every year; and biological diversities are crashing.

Elephant populations have the capacity to double their numbers every 10 years. The animal rightists repudiate this statistic. But it is true. Botswana’s elephants numbered 54 500 in 1990; by the year 2000 they numbered 120 600; and by 2013 they were up to 207 000.

In Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park elephant numbers increased from 3500 in 1960 to over 50 000 today (despite constant population reduction); and the Gonarezhou National Park’s elephants increased from 2500 in 1972 to an estimated 14 000 today (despite irregular population reduction). In South Africa’s Kruger National Park the elephant population increased from 7000 in 1994 to some 22 000 today (and 95 percent of the park’s vital top canopy trees have been destroyed). And all these populations are still increasing.

So the restrictions that Barrack Obama recently placed on the movement of ivory artefacts across state boundaries within the U.S. – ostensibly to ‘save’ the African elephant – compared to the above facts – is pathetic; and it helps the elephant not one little bit. And all the hype and hysteria was based on the lies of animal rightist propaganda!

What would help Africa’s wildlife would be if Americans woke up to the fact they have been duped out of hundreds of millions of US dollars every year – to prop up the animal rights confidence industry. None of that money ever gets to Africa. None of it is used to help “save” the elephant. Most people hate to think that they have been ‘conned’ out of their hard earned cash! But THAT is a fact beyond any doubt! Let us hope, therefore, that American’s learn from their own mistakes, and that common sense will eventually prevail.

If Americans truly want to “save” Africa’s elephants, rhinos, and lions, all they have to do is to convince their political masters to leave Africa to practice its own brand of ‘conservation’ without interference from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. Africa doesn’t need western gunboats firing salvoes over its bows all the time – telling us what we can and cannot do with our own wildlife.

And CITES must go! CITES is the biggest impediment to “best practice” wildlife management in Africa. CITES must “go” because it is now the biggest weapon the animal rightists have ever had under their control. And the animal rightists are BAD NEWS for Africa’s wildlife.

People everywhere must learn to understand that responsible trade is not bad for wildlife. It is, in fact, the one thing that can truly ‘save’ Africa’s wildlife into posterity.