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Art Theft

With the Government’s Ivory ban consultation currently in full swing, and no reply yet from the Right Hon. Michael Gove’s office as per our request for an interview on the subject, it makes sense to surf the net and see what’s being said and what’s being published. 

In doing so this past Monday, this writer came accross a website and organisation called the Environmenal Investigation Agency (EIA), and in particular a press release published on 10 August 2017. Perplexed by the content of the release is an understatement, for an organisation that state on their about us page, “findings are combined with scientific documentation and representation at international conventions, creating the hard-hitting campaigns which have earned us a global reputation,” the publication is unsubstantiated and to all intents and purposes, pure hyperventilation on the part of the EIA. 

Decorated with meaningless graphs that cannot be cross checked, and without a single footnote referencing their findings, the only option was to ask some questions. Fortunately, the ‘disqus’ commentary section at the bottom of the article was open for comment. Our questions can be seen at the bottom of this article which is reproduced in full, from the EIA website.

After waiting a couple of days and returning to the site, our comment had been erased, and the conversation shut down entirely. Fortunately we took screen shots, which you can see below. I really don't think the questions are too taxing. The EIA's claim that the legal trade in the UK masks an illegal trade is very strong indeed, and we wanted to know how they arrived at that conclusion especially in light of the recent TRAFFIC report which you can link through to by copying and pasting the link below into your browser. In that report, you will find that it clearly states that the European trade in modern Ivory out of central Africa, is virtually negligible. It seems to be that the EIA are scaremongering and are quite prepared to publish loose unsubstantiated hyperbole in order to facilitate their "hard-hitting campaign". 

Perhaps Ms. Rice might like to open that commentary section back up? I mean, if organisations like Ms. Rice's can stage anti-ivory demonstrations outside art and antiques fairs, then surely they can open themselves up to a discussion on what they publish on the situation? But no, they close down the conversation, which begs the question, why? The term 'inconvenient facts' comes to mind. Beyond inconvenient facts, their hyperbole flirts with fraudulent, if not outright fabrication.

We used to call those lies.


UK is the largest supplier to the world’s ivory markets  - Direct link to the article on the EIA website.

To read the full 2017 TRAFFIC report copy and paste this link into your browser:



From the EIA website - Published 10th August, 2017


UK is the largest supplier to the world’s ivory markets

LONDON: New analysis by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has revealed that the UK is the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory – and the largest exporter of legal ivory to Hong Kong and China.

Ahead of World Elephant Day on Saturday, EIA Executive Director Mary Rice said: “UK ivory exports are stimulating consumer demand globally, especially in Hong Kong and China, two of the world’s largest markets for both legal and illegal ivory. Even as the Government of China works towards closing its domestic ivory market by the end of 2017, the UK continues to inject a large amount of ivory into China.

“The UK Government should stop issuing permits for all ivory exports with immediate effect, not least to show solidarity with the Hong Kong and Chinese governments which have both committed to closing their domestic ivory markets.

“As well as fuelling demand for ivory, the UK’s legal trade provides opportunities for the laundering of illegal ivory, both within the country and internationally.

“The UK Government has said it will launch a consultation about further restrictions on the country’s ivory trade – something the Conservative Party has promised in two successive election manifestos. The analysis published by EIA today will doubtless come as a shock to many who may have been complacent about the role of the UK in the slaughter of Africa’s elephants and reinforces the need for action.”

EIA wildlife campaigners scrutinised the trade database maintained by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which records certificates issued for legal ivory exports. During 2010-15, the data show that:

the UK exported 370 per cent more ivory items globally than the next highest exporter, the USA;

the UK occupied the top spot in the list of largest ivory exporters for each year except 2015, when it was second only to Italy;

UK ivory exports to Hong Kong and China increased dramatically over the period, while exports to the USA plummeted as the US

Government introduced greater restrictions on international and domestic ivory trade.

Rice added:  “This huge legal trade from the UK – and the illegal trade it masks – is wholly unacceptable for a country which has previously shown strong leadership on elephant conservation.”

The UK is the world’s largest supplier of ivory

The UK exported more legal ivory than any other country between 2010 and 2015, which highlights that fact that the UK clearly plays a significant role in the international trade in ivory..

Screen Shot 2017 11 09 at 02.06.16

The UK is the world’s largest supplier of ivory to China and Hong Kong

The UK exported more legal ivory than any other country to China and Hong Kong, two of the world’s largest markets for legal and illegal ivory.

Screen Shot 2017 11 09 at 02.06.29

US ivory trade restrictions led to a dramatic fall in ivory imports

The USA was the main destination for UK ivory exports between 2010 and 2012. From 2013, China/Hong Kong became the main destinations for exports of ivory from the UK as exports to the USA dropped significantly and exports to China/Hong Kong rose significantly (see table below)..

Screen Shot 2017 11 09 at 02.06.38

Read more on our dedicated website –

INTERVIEWS are available on request:

Mary Rice via maryrice[at] or telephone +44 20 7354 7960

Shruti Suresh via shrutisuresh[at] or telephone +44 20 7354 7960


1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK- and Washington DC-based Non-Governmental Organisation that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes and abuses, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste and trade, climate- and ozone-altering chemicals, exploitation of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and marine plastic pollution.

1. For more information on China’s role as a major hub for illegal ivory trafficking and trade, read the EIA report ‘The Shuidong Connection’, released July 2017, at

Environmental Investigation Agency

62-63 Upper Street

London N1 0NY


Tel: +44 207 354 7960




And then they shut the conversation down


Lead Image - Ms. Mary Rice, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency


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About the Author

Elliot Lee

Elliot Lee

Elliot Lee founded his antique business in 1994. Having bought his first Antique piece at the tender age of eleven, it has since then been his passion for Antiques, Fine Art, and aesthetically beautif...