The E.U. Has Beefed Up Its Anti-Ivory Regulations, Banning Outright the Trade of Raw Animal Tusks

The resolution, set to go into effect in January, will task each EU member state with policing the regulation in its own way.

EU Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
EU Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

The European Union (EU) has stepped up its restrictions on the ivory trade, which lawmakers hope will curb poaching practices as several species of elephant become increasingly endangered.

Set to go into effect on January 18, 2022, the new measures ban outright the trading of all raw ivory in the Union—a policy akin to those of China and the United States, where strict prohibitions were put in place in the previous five years. 

The exchange of worked ivory within the EU will be limited to antiques made prior to 1947 and musical instruments built before 1975. Imports from, and re-exports to, countries outside the union will only be allowed in the cases of family heirlooms, artifacts shared between recognized cultural institutions, and objects used for law enforcement or research purposes.

Announced last week by the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, the restrictions are not binding, meaning that individual countries will be responsible for implementing their own regulations.

“The world is losing wildlife at an incredible speed,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, the EU’s commissioner for the environment, oceans, and fisheries. “Thousands of elephants are killed every year, and their ivory is often sold internationally. To reverse this global trend and to protect biodiversity, we must also do our work at home.”

“With today’s measures, we are delivering on our promise to take further action against ivory trafficking, and sending a clear signal that ivory in the EU can no longer be traded like other commodities and should not be elsewhere too. We want to eliminate any remaining risk that activities in the EU indirectly supply illegal ivory markets abroad,” the commissioner added.

The EU’s new rules will amend those published in 2017, which banned raw ivory but allowed for its export if it came from before 1975, and its import if it was sourced before 1947. Those dates were widely seen as an effort to inhibit poaching without debilitating an important sector of the antiques industry.

However, antiques dealers throughout Europe will likely feel the impact of the new, stricter rules more than ever. 

Erika Bocherau, director-general of CINOA, an international confederation of antique professionals, told the Art Newspaper that the “new restrictions will be felt by both the trade and private individuals.”

“It is hard to digest that the EU’s new restrictions on the trade of antique worked ivory were approved, even though legislators acknowledge that none of the EU Member States have been identified as countries that are implicated in the illicit ivory trade,” she said.

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