Despite the judge’s sympathy to an alliance of antique dealers and antiquities, the appeal to overturn the “world’s toughest” ivory ban was dismissed. They previously failed to reverse the country’s near-total ban on ivory trading in a judicial review last November.
Its implementation will have a “chilling effect” on the market, and in practice, the de minimis threshold will translate into a nebulous task of having to determine whether an item’s ivory content exceeds the threshold by merely 1%. This may encourage the previously legitimate trade to move to other art market centres lacking such strict prohibitions on dealing in ivory, which may be counter-productive for enforcement. However, the judiciary's efforts to strike a proportional balance between protecting wildlife and the environment and the right to property should not be underestimated.
It remains to be seen whether the art trade will take the case to the Supreme Court, but in any event, international harmonisation is required to give effect to the regulatory mechanisms of the Act. For now, the Act demonstrates the UK’s leadership in this field and calls other jurisdictions such as Hong Kong and Australia to join forces to fight illegal wildlife trade.
"The dismissal of this appeal has come at a difficult time for the locked down UK art trade. With reports that during the Covid-19 lockdown there has been a recent rebound in poaching elephant ivories, this would appear at first sight a welcome development. No-one disputes that any increase in poaching or the market for modern ivory should be curbed and ideally extinguished." - Tim Maxwell, Partner quoted on artnet