100,000 elephants were killed between 2010 and 2012. That’s a really sad figure. To try to halt that disastrous situation, most countries have – in the very recent years – enforced new regulations banning all trade of ivory objects. United Kingdom is planning to introduce a total ban in the coming months, polarizing opinions. An open consultation was organised during the end of last year. It received more than 60,000 responses. Art and antiques professionals are at the forefront discussing how to limit the impact of such policies on the trade of antiques ivory object.

“The Elephant in the Room” Credit Busacca Gallery. The Courtauld Institute

The one-hour panel featured two key speakers from the art world: one from the public sector, young Alistair Brown, Policy Officer for the Museums Association, and one established dealer, Martin Levy from H. Blairman & Sons. On the other side Will Travers OBE, CEO of the Born Free Foundation, was taking the side of elephants. They – as much as each could – tried to reconciliate their positions, moderated by Courtauld Institute’s Dr Niamh Bhalla. Difficult task.

On one side, the art market doesn’t understand how the official trade of century-old objects could affect poaching: “there no good reason to make the moving of medieval ivory difficult” said Martin Levy. On the other hand, Will Travers believes that trade is specifically what justifies the mass killing of animals: “we should stop thinking how brilliant we are and how the works of man or woman are more important than the works of creation”. According to him, “A distinction should be made between museums, which is vitally important, and the trade. Trade is what is killing the elephant, not the display of ivory in the V&A.”

No reconciliation just yet.

Watch the entire panel on YouTube: “The Elephant in the Room: Ivory and the Art World”.