Antiques Roadshow criticised over stance on ivory objects
Virginia McKenna said it was wrong to think “antique” ivory had no impact on living elephants.
Born Free actress Virginia McKenna has hit out at the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow over its decision to continue to show objects made from ivory.
The Government plans to ban the sale of all ivory items, with older objects currently permitted.
China, one of the world’s biggest markets, recently announced it was closing down its domestic market.
Wildlife campaigner and actress McKenna, 86, called on the BBC One show to “step away from our parochial fascination with antiques at any price”, adding: “We cannot afford to put a value on bloody ivory.”
She told Radio Times magazine that, despite the expected change in legislation: “Antiques Roadshow, a programme I regularly watch, has decided to continue to show ivory products.”
The popular show, presented by Fiona Bruce, would “continue to represent ivory as a desirable item, a thing of beauty instead of a symbol of destruction”, she said.
The co-founder of the Born Free Foundation and A Town Like Alice star said: “I have had the huge misfortune to see poached elephants. I have stood in tears on the African plains, just feet away from the collapsed carcass of a massive elephant, its tusks removed, its face disfigured.
“The stench of death was overpowering – and for what? So that someone, somewhere, could wear an ivory bangle, could put an ivory carving on their mantelpiece, could eat with ivory chopsticks, could stick some ivory in a vault and speculate on its worth when the species has been driven to extinction.”
She said it was wrong to think “antique” ivory had no impact on living elephants.
“The UK, until recently, was the largest exporter of carved ivory items to the Far East and that trade provides cover for illegal ivory, the result of ongoing poaching,” she said.
About 20,000 elephants are being slaughtered annually due to the global demand in ivory and if current rates of poaching continue, the animals could become extinct within decades in some African countries, experts have warned.
Existing rules allow for “worked” or carved items produced before March 3, 1947, to be sold in the UK while sale of raw ivory of any age is prohibited.
Under the new proposals, sales of the older worked items would be banned.
McKenna welcomed assurances the TV show would reflect the horrors of poaching, but added: “The decision by Antiques Roadshow to continue its policy… once a likely ban is implemented does not help the situation and is out of touch with the great majority of the British public, parliamentarians and the international community.”
She added: “In the past 10 years, more than 1,000 rangers have been killed on active duty.”
A BBC spokeswoman said: “In our role as a trusted source of advice about antiques and fine art, we do not feel it appropriate to impose a ban on all coverage of ivory objects.
“On the few occasions where we will show antique ivory in future programmes we will choose them because of their importance in representing such cultural or creative significance and only when such pieces are legal…
“Within these features we will also seek to reflect the wider context of the debate about ivory and the horrors of modern day poaching.”
The BBC also later added: “In the light of recent developments in the UK and China with regard to the trade in antique ivory, the Antiques Roadshow is currently reviewing the way it will, in future, approach items of antique ivory that are brought in by members of the public for appraisal.
“In recent years, on the rare occasions when we have examined an object, the Antiques Roadshow has sought to raise awareness of the debate around antique ivory, informing our viewers about current legislation and drawing attention to the horrors of modern day poaching.
“We’re looking forward to finding out more about the Government’s plans for new legislation around the trade in antique ivory and will review our approach in the coming months.”