The ivory trade survived in France
Ségolène Royal officially announced the new decree
On a recent visit to Kenya, Ségolène Royal - Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy - took part in a drastic decision concerning ivory sales (including kitchen knives with handles made from elephant tusks).
The French Minister declared a total ban on “all ivory trade in France” in a response to an official demand made by several African countries aiming to decrease poaching and preserve populations of pachyderms and rhinoceroses.
This announcement reinforces the decree of August 17, 2016, which was co-written by Ségolène Royal and the Minister of Agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll. This decree placed a total ban on “the sale or purchase of tusks and objects that are partially or totally made of ivory” as well as “(a ban on) manufacturing objects using ivory, regardless of the ivory’s age.”
With this firm and definitive decision France has taken the lead amongst European countries in the struggle to protect elephants and rhinoceroses.
A demonstration of power
Ségolène Royal symbolically announced this decree during a large ceremony organized by Uhuru Kenyatta the President of Kenya, which took place in Nairobi, where a massive quantity of ivory was destroyed. The leaders of Gabon and Uganda were also present at this ceremony.
105 tons of ivory were destroyed in the public square as a warning directed toward the poachers who unscrupulously continued their dirty work for countless years. This is the largest quantity of ivory to have ever gone up in smoke, making up 5% of the world’s inventory!
Prolonging an initiative started in January 2015
The sale of objects and kitchen knives made of ivory was already regulated
A clarification should be made about the sale of ivory objects in France: stringent rules concerning the trade and sales of ivory already existed in France. Damocles’ sword dangled over the heads of artisans working in this sector ever since the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) was signed in Washington.
A logical sequence of events
Ségolène Royal’s announcement this past summer was therefore not surprising when taking into account the stance taken by the Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy in January of 2015.
This decree asked those responsible at the Regional Directorate for Environment, Development and housing (DREAL) not to allow government workers to issue CITES certificates for the re-exportation of raw elephant tusks and pieces of ivory.
Heavy debate over the ban on the sale of objects and kitchen knives made of ivory
One thing is certain: even though the new legislation seems to be common sense, when this law was put into place it cause heated debates between those supporting the government’s actions and those opposing them. The group of opposing individuals consists mainly of professionals who sell objects and kitchen knives made of ivory.
Satisfaction is given to those advocating animal rights
The NGO Robin des Bois (translated Robin Hood) specializes in following up on the illegal trade of animals. This NGO congratulated this recent political decision initiated by Ségolène Royal, “(France is) totally in agreement with the position held by African states, the Unites States and numerous other NGOs around the world.”
Charlotte Nithart, spokesperson for Robin des Bois, reminded us of the pressing issue surrounding this decree, which is saving “(part of) mankind’s worldwide heritage” by helping the remaining 450,000 – 500,000 African elephants survive.
Despondent ivory workers: the sale of objects and kitchen knives made of ivory
On the opposite side of this debate lie the professionals who sell objects and kitchen knives made of ivory. These individuals denounce this decree as ineffective in regard to the Law of 1990, which had, according to them, already established sufficient rules regarding the trade of ivory in France.
This text stipulated that the ivory trade should be strictly limited to the following:
- Ivory objects taken prior to 1947. Such objects were to be considered antiques.
- Raw pieces of ivory imported into the European Union prior to 1990. In this case, an intra-community certificate was issued by public authorities, which proved the object’s age.
The Law of August 17, 2016 put a total ban on ivory sales in France, which has provoked the fury of artisans specializing in this niche most notably those living in Dieppe, a French city whose economy is concentrated in the ivory working sector.
These workers have announced the death of their trade, unless they are allowed the former exemptions. The French political leader’s firm stance on this situation is viewed by these workers as erroneous.
It seems as though retailers working in the sales of ivory objects and kitchen knives with ivory handles must come to grips with the fact that it is no longer possible to purchase or sell ivory in France.