Does Prince William want to destroy all of the royal-owned pieces of ivory?


The ivory trade is a HUGE problem. And it has been a huge problem for centuries, as thousands of elephants were slaughtered merely for their tusks, and many elephant populations are still under threat today because of poachers looking to profit from their tusks. Well, Prince William allegedly wants to do something about that. Maybe. As I said, allegedly. I want to be clear: these quotes attributed to William are second-hand, although it’s Jane Goodall who claims that William said this to her, so take that as you will:

The Duke of Cambridge wants to strip all the ivory from Buckingham Palace and destroy it, The Independent on Sunday can reveal, in a move conservationists hailed as “extremely significant” in the fight against elephant poaching.

Some 1,200 items containing ivory are listed in the royal collection, including a throne from India that incorporates elephant-ivory plaques. The move would seek to encourage other heads of states to give up their ivory stocks and collections.

The revelation comes days after the Duke attended the world’s largest ever conference on the illegal wildlife trade, which called for an end to the £12bn trade in animals and their parts, including ivory. At least 45 tons of ivory were seized in 2013, believed to be the biggest annual haul in a quarter of a century.

“It’s difficult to imagine a stronger symbol of the horrors of ivory than Buckingham Palace publicly destroying its own,” said Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith. “Good for Prince William for pushing this.”

It is not the first time Prince William has spoken up for elephants; last week he launched a new coalition, United for Wildlife, made up of seven organisations, which is determined to end the illegal wildlife trade. He said then: “The forces that are currently destroying some of the world’s most endangered species are sophisticated and powerful, but this week we are seeing the creation of an equally powerful alliance, coming together to help fight them.”

The next day, 46 governments attended the London Conference. They pledged, among other things, to renounce the use of any products from species threatened by extinction, to support the commercial prohibition on the international trade in elephant ivory until the survival of elephants is no longer threatened by poaching, and to encourage countries to destroy their illegal stockpiles of ivory. They also urged the private sector to adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy on giving or receiving products made from species threatened with extinction.

Veteran primatologist Jane Goodall, who turns 80 this year, told The IoS that she had spoken to Prince William and he had told her he would “like to see all the ivory owned by Buckingham Palace destroyed”. The Royal Family’s extensive collection includes fans, miniatures and furniture – such as the ivory throne from India, dated 1851, which belonged to Queen Victoria. A Palace spokesperson said they had received a small number of items since 1947 but said they were “primarily official gifts, which would have been agreed in full knowledge of relevant legislation.”

The Prince of Wales has reportedly asked for ivory items at Clarence House and Highgrove to be put out of sight over the last few years. But experts said destruction would send a “powerful” message to the world. “It would be a demonstration of them putting their money where their mouth is. It would be extremely significant, and visual, and might help Britons hand in their ivory, illegal or legal,” said Dr Paula Kahumbu, executive director of Kenyan-based charity Wildlife Direct.

“Ninety nine per cent of ivory that is in people’s hands comes from elephants being gunned down. Handing it in shows: ‘I’m going to wash my hands of this despicable business.’ It shows the royals are not above taking a practical, personal action. It would probably result in similar support from other countries.”

…A spokesman for the Duke of Cambridge refused to either confirm or deny private comments Prince William is said to have made.

[From The Independent]

There are more quotes from animal-rights and specifically anti-ivory-trade people in that Independent article. The gist is that many people think it would be a powerful symbol if the royal family destroyed their ivory, but some people don’t really see the point in destroying art pieces that are centuries old in some cases. I can sort of relate – I inherited my father’s Indian art collection, and there are a few pieces that have ivory inlays. I support a full-on ivory trade ban and I think elephant poachers should be… well, I wouldn’t be sorry if they disappeared from the face of the earth, let’s put it that way. But I also feel like there should be a grandfather clause for ivory – it seems like destroying historical pieces of ivory would merely be a symbolic gesture. I don’t know. I can see how even historical pieces of ivory would be a reminder of the slaughter of elephants, but at the end of the day… I’m not going to destroy the ivory-inlaid art that I inherited. Does this mean William is going to come to my house and destroy my ivory?


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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81 Responses to “Does Prince William want to destroy all of the royal-owned pieces of ivory?”

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  1. Janet says:

    I hate ivory and won’t touch it. Every piece of ivory represents another dead elephant.

    • Leigh_S says:

      This may come off as insensitive, but you can say the same about every steak, lamb chop, drumstick and leather jacket.

      I despise the WASTE of poaching. If you are going to hunt an animal, then at least use everything possible with as little waste as possible. Don’t destroy history in an attempt at revisionism.

      I don’t mind antique ivory, vintage fur or similar. At least have the respect to use, re-use and re-purpose as long as possible.

      • harpreet says:

        I see your point, but why not return it to India, where it has historical and cultural significance.

        Plundering a country’s riches and destroying them seems a bit much.

      • Esther says:

        Without going into an Elgin Marbles debate, a lot of the ivory the Crown owns were formerly gifts and it’s not incredibly polite to return those.

        I’ve seen this gorgeous carved ivory sphere in Osborne House which it would really be a crime to destroy. It’s beautiful and represents really immaculate craftsmanship. Obviously I’m totally against the creation and trade of modern ivory, but to destroy it seems wasteful and disrespectful to the elephants who would then have been killed for nothing to show for it.

      • bluhare says:

        I can see both sides of this, but I think I agree with you, Leigh. Esther as well.

      • Janet says:

        @Leigh: Not exactly. Steak, lamb chops, drumsticks and leather jackets aren’t the products of endangered species.

      • Leigh_S says:


        True, but the endangered species argument is a separate issue from the original one. :)

      • Janet says:

        @Leigh: Last I heard, elephants — particularly African elephants — are very much endangered, and they are being slaughtered precisely for their ivory.

        (I’m kind of emotional on this subject as African elephants have been my favorite animal since I was a little girl.)

      • Leigh_S says:

        Elephants are on my family crest, I’ve always loved elephants.
        I’m NOT saying poaching elephants is ok. Killing an animal to only use one part is a MASSIVE waste, esp. in the case of an elephant. Killing a shark for only its fin is similarly wasteful and shameful, though sharks tend to be less cuddly.

        The modern ivory trade is deplorable. However, I don’t support advocating for the destruction of historical artwork or jewelry, nor destruction of usable vintage/antique items because of base sentimentality.

        This call by the DoC is nothing but a political bait and switch. The majority of the endangered species goes to one ‘industry’, the ‘traditional medicine’ market, most of it in China. Tokens, totems, charms, ‘potency’ medicines. That’s why people keep poaching elephants, rhinos, tigers, bears, leopards, jaguars, orangutans. Many of these animals are in a much more endangered position than the elephants. All of them so beautiful to watch in motion that it hurts the heart and reminds you of the magic of childhood. All of them poached in an attempt to bottle that magic and imbue the ‘patient’ with those properties.

        The ivory stores of the nations have almost nothing to do with the real source of the demand. Its just William’s way to throw a fit over poaching without risking offending China. Its a calculated tantrum in front of the parent that won’t punish.

      • ya says:

        @Esther – they were ‘gifts’ from a time when India was colonized by the British – so ‘gifts’ from one portion of the British Empire, plundered from a colony, to another.

      • Lauraq says:

        Don’t forget the cruelty. If you know where your meat comes from, you can buy cruelty free (and that includes leather that came from cows killed humanely and eaten). There’s no such thing as cruelty free fur or skin.

        Here’s an idea-sell the pieces and donate the profits to a conservation fund.

  2. Mich says:

    I fail to see the point. Poachers aren’t exactly riveted to the actions of Prince Special Snowflake and 70% of the trade goes to China. Destroying historic art won’t bring those elephants back but I suppose PSS deserves some kudos for wanting to make some kind of public statement about the horrors of the ivory trade.

  3. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I think elephants are in significant danger of extinction and poachers and illegal trade should be stopped. But I don’t see how destroying the ivory objects will accomplish this. It will send a message to people who already have the message. The people shooting elephants and buying ivory now aren’t going to care. I think it’s a wasteful, empty gesture, although I think he means well.

  4. Jo says:

    1. Traders copy documentation from historic pieces and use it to sell new ivory obtained illegally.
    2. Even if the ivory pieces you have inherited were legal at the time, the elephant was still killed to obtain it.

  5. Aria says:

    Ok. Let me get this straight: He loves hunting but he is against killing elephants. What a hypocrite! Blood sports, no matter what animal you hunt, are BAD, are a vile thing to do!

    You are a vile petty man, William!

  6. Angelic 21 says:

    Someone should tell this idiotic son of a b*tch that he does not own these priceless pieces of art etc, it belongs to crown i.e. nation. No wonder place keeps this idiot hidden, he comes off even more deranged then his environment, politically interfering ass of a father. He is Charles carbon copy without his sense of duty.

  7. AD says:

    William seems to be getting a lot of negative press lately. This idea just adds to it. Destroying priceless art won’t send a message at all. He needs to focus on the people that are doing this and try to get them to stop.

    On an unrelated note, did anyone see the picture from 2004 of Harry next to a dead Buffalo? Do you think he knows he’s a sacrificial lamb?

  8. redtree says:

    well that’ll helps his cause, NOT !!

  9. Laineyd says:

    William has no right to destroy this stuff. It doesn’t belong to the royal family. It also won’t bring back the animals that died to make it and it’ll probably do more damage as it’ll make ivory rarer and therefore more expensive.

    • JaDeRu says:

      That’s what I kept thinking when I saw this. Wouldn’t it make it more expensive, therefor more sought after?

    • CynicalCeleste says:

      Yes and no. On one hand, shrinking the supply will in theory make any existing or new ivory more rare and hence more valuable. However, the point of destroying the palace’s collection would be (again, in theory) to help reduce demand and if demand shrinks, then the value drops.

      New money always wants what old money has got, so to walk into palaces and grand aristocratic homes and see displays of ivory will impress those who want to emulate the trappings of luxury and therefore the market continues. The palace could show leadership therefore by saying we do not display nor own nor condone in any way the use of ivory, which would ideally inspire other influential owners of ivory antiques to do the same… thereby influencing future would-be buyers to lose interest. The long term goal would be to dry up demand and with no more buyers, the value plummets and the trade comes to an end.

      Of course, a black market will always exist to some degree, as with all things… But the key factor here I think is that William will have to convince the government of this plan, no? Are these items not crown assets and not the royal family’s to keep or destroy? Which is probably why there seems to be some backing away from PW’s strong words…. neither confirming nor denying….eye roll please. Not sure about the rules of property at highgrove, etc.

      Anyway, I agree with Talie below, a global effort to gather and catalogue all existing pieces would take them off the market, serve the same purpose of ending demand and allow significant works of art and craftsmanship to be stored in a museum… seems to me to be a better plan than outright obliteration, in my view anyway.

  10. Talie says:

    Those pieces should be in a museum. What. Dimwit. He really seems to have no brains lately.

  11. HadleyB says:

    Of COURSE it doesn’t bring back dead elephants but it’s still advertising just like when celebs wear something in public and get photo’d, then the billion of people who saw it go out and buy the item.

    Also people tend to want what they can’t have. Just like “vintage fur”. It’s ok to wear vintage fur because YOU didn’t buy it?? Um, no. It still promoting the fur. People see it, can’t afford vintage or would rather have “new” and more sales are born.

    I had an ivory and gold ring when I was a kid, and then as I got older realized what it stood for. I had NO problems destroying it. It made me SICK to even think of wearing it knowing what it stood for. I don’t regret it. I only regret even wearing it a few times, even having it makes me ill.

    • Angelic 21 says:

      He can’t destroy it because it doesn’t belong to him, it belongs to us aka tax payers and British citizens. Plus people buy Ivory (especially Chinese) for superstitious purposes, it will have no effect on poaching and will further make Ivory costly be making it so rare.

  12. epiphany says:

    I hope many (most) of the things I’ve been reading about William are untrue, because the more I learn, the less I like him. If these stories coming out lately are true, he’s making some bad choices. Perhaps he should put the ivory out of his mind for a while and concentrate on his wife and son?
    The ivory trade is morally reprehensible and unspeakably cruel. That being said, what purpose does it serve to destroy invaluable pieces of art because they contain ivory from generations past who did not share our ethical sensibilities where animals are concerned? Destroying a priceless ivory chess set won’t bring back the elephant that died to create it. I’m thrilled that he’s a passionate supporter of animal welfare, but his focus should be on the elephants still living… now, William, get back to your family…

  13. Frida_K says:

    Wow. His masseter (a jaw muscle) is huge in that last picture. He looks like he clenches his jaw regularly, and maybe even grinds his teeth. This, fellow Celebitchresses, is the kind of thing one sees when people come in to clinic with a chief complaint of TMJ.

    Acupuncture could help him and it looks like he needs it.

  14. kellyinseattle says:

    He really needs to think first about destroying his comb-over.

  15. CC says:

    The ivory trade that needs to be stopped is the current one, that kills still-living animals. There’s nothing that can be done for the animals that were slaughtered in the past.

    Destruction of ivory, most times turned into artworks is extremely stupid and solves nothing. Besides, in what way does it solve the fact that some Russian or Chinese (or others) billionaire buys it illegally?

    How about heavy penalties, such heavy fines, for say, 10-100x what the ivory amount sells for in the black market and prison terms without parole for ivory newer than X years? That’s what carbon-dating is for.

  16. LAK says:

    This is pointless posturing considering the ivory doesn’t belong to him. It belongs to the nation.

  17. FLORC says:

    I have ivory jewelry I inherited and have no issues wearing it or owning it.
    Just saying. I won’t be shamed into destroying it. William needs to remember who actually owns those pieces.

    • Alina says:

      I´m an animal lover and against sport hunting. I see nothing wrong with jewelry or art out of old ivory or antler/ horn and animal bones. That´s art and part of our history. It´s the modern ivory hunt that is the problem and not the old art treasures. No wonder no one takes hunter Billy seriously in this case.

      In my Experimental Archeology course we were carving clasps and pendants out of antler and animal bones. I still own these pieces and wear them. My old prof is no hunter, he collects roadkill or dead animals out of the forest and then uses everything. Skin, fur, feathers, meat, organs, oils and blood if still useful, bones, antlers, claws etc.

      • FLORC says:

        i agree. And a big part of Ivory hunters is the whole animal dies for the tusk and nothing else is used. Very sad.
        Sounds like William spoke to what would put him in good standing with present company and didn’t realise what he said makes him sound so uninformed.

  18. Jaded says:

    It would be a pyrrhic victory if he did that. No amount of ivory destruction would help stop the illegal poaching of elephants, rhinos, leopards, tigers, etc. etc. The only thing that can stop this horror is a mass round-up of all poachers and that’s sort of like trying to stamp out a cockroach infestation in a tenement. I think he’s looking for ways to redeem himself in the public eye again after he’s repeatedly shot himself in the foot over the past year or two.

  19. Algernon says:

    What about rounding up all the royal family ivory and donating/auctioning it off to benefit anti-poaching efforts? For instance, take all the ivory that’s in the royal collection, ie, the stuff technically owned by the British people, and donate it to a museum, but have a big charity gala celebrating the donation, with the money to benefit the Tusk Trust. That way you’re raising awareness of an on-going issue and also being responsible with antique art. As many people have said, you can’t do much about the elephants that are already gone, so you might as well put that ivory to work for elephants who can still be saved. There has to be some ivory in the private Windsor collection, too, though. For that stuff, I say auction it off and again, all the proceeds go to the Tusk Trust.

    I also think it would be meaningful if he (and Harry) stopped hunting. I understand there is a difference between poaching and hunting, and I have family members who regularly hunt deer, boar, turkey/game fowl, etc, but are against big game hunting. I don’t quite see the difference (killing is killing?), but given William’s position, I think it would probably be a good idea to be consistent about the message.

    • LAK says:

      It’s not his place to decide what to do with the ivory in the royal collections as it belongs to the nation and not the royal family despite his personal access to it.

      IF the nation agrees that he donates it to a museum or that he sell it or that he destroy it, then he can go ahead with any or all those options.

      Until then, he can’t do anything about it beyond putting it in safe storage of it offends his personal sensibilities.

      • Algernon says:

        You’re right. I’m not saying he should just up and donate it without any kind of consideration. Just that “donating to a museum” should be one of the options. I agree with a lot of other people; destroying the ivory doesn’t really do much. Personally I think it would be better to find a solution that can be used to both benefit elephants currently in need of protection and make valuable and interesting art available for more people to see and study.

    • Leigh_S says:

      The main difference in ‘conventional’ hunting vs big game hunting is that conventional hunting typically involves a utilitarian purpose as opposed to a purely trophy purpose.

      All the deer hunters I know eat the deer they hunt, give bones to dog owning friends, donate the hides for tanning etc. One deer hunter I know put it to me this way “In my mind, its hypocritical to eat meat, and not be willing to face the fact that an animal’s life was sacrificed to make that meal happen.”

      Many deer hunters in the US also donate meat to food banks, etc.

  20. vangroovey says:

    I have to read up on this. Of course killing elephants is wrong. I get that. Absolutely. But, just to play devil’s advocate for a second…is it true that the reason a lot of these animals are killed is because they go for top dollar? And aren’t the actual poachers dirt poor? Combined with the dismal natural resources in Africa and the devastating effects of old fashion colonialism, couldn’t it be argued that poaching is the only way for some of these poachers to “earn a living”? Like I said, I have no idea….it’s an honest question on my part. But if that is the case, IDK, making this issue Willy’s “hot button” issue seems a little….classist. Especially since he doesn’t seem to be offering up any ideas about revving up Africa’s economy. Again, I am not condoning hunting…just saying that something about this whole push of Prince William leaves me a bit skeptical. Something about it is not sitting right with me, and I can’t figure out what that “thing” is.

  21. P.J. says:

    As a HUGE animal lover, part time activist and protector (I was vegan for years but recently moved to pescatarian for health reasons), I completely understand wanting to not be surrounded by such awful reminders/relics of unspeakable cruelty, however, the destruction of antique ivory or furs doesn’t really make sense to me. In fact, in some ways it makes me just as upset as the killings themselves because it means those beautiful animals quite literally died in vain for absolutely no reason at all 😞 Again, I can completely understand the urge or feeling behind it, but destroying the body parts that they were slaughtered for does not honor their memory or put an end to the problem. The only way to do that is to lock the poachers away, shut down every fur farm around the world (not an easy task) and develop significantly harsher laws. Just heartbreaking.

  22. original kay says:

    Perhaps they should loan to Museums and use them to educate, rather than destroying them.

    let’s not make the deaths of thousands and thousands of elephants be in vain. Use the pieces to educate about illegal poaching instead.

  23. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    Seems like good intentions, even if he doesn’t have the authority to actually carry it out. Ivory should be stripped of all value — monetary, aesthetic, historic, novelty, whatever. As long as people place value on it, there will be poachers and excuses for poachers. Ivory should have no place in society other than as a ticket to prison.

  24. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    Oh, and as for people saying “but that means the elephants died in vain” — YES, the elephants DID die in vain. And ivory (or people’s love of it) is the reason they died in vain. Saying the ivory should be kept so that the elephants didn’t die in vain is JUSTIFYING the killing, because you’re saying ivory is a legitimate reason for killing them.

    • FLORC says:

      I did not ask for an elephant to be killed. I have not personally or through someone else harmed an elephant tmk.

      I will not destroy part of the world’s history over this. If it’s all destroyed than a part of history is erased forever. Then we don’t remember that this happened and are doomed to repeat it after enough time passes.

      Destroying the ivory that’s very old serves no purpose, but to destroy a terrible history that we should always be reminded of. New ivory should without question be destroyed.

  25. Alina says:

    Would William be smarter he would choose another way.
    He could open an ivory exhibition with all these pieces. The ivory pieces would be the vehicle for the real message. True facts about this dirty trade (like poor hunters and greedy traders and buyers). William could make this exhibition his “baby” and with all his media presence he could sent the right message to the world. It would also bring in money and lots of PR for the fight against ivory trade.
    As always William plans have not been thought through.

  26. BeckyR says:

    Good Lord. NOTHING would be gained by destroying precious art and relics. Nothing! I swear, the older he gets the more stupid his comments get. He was never a heavyweight in the brains department and it is REALLY showing these days! Shut UP, Billy!

  27. Flower says:

    Apart from the fact he does not own most of these items , they are part of the royal collection and belong to the nation it’s rather Hitler-ish of him to advocate the destruction of historical works of art simply because he disapproves of them. The old Royal ‘do as I say not as I do argument’, all wild species are becoming endangered (except for those that have learned to live with man such as rats, ants and cockroaches) so his argument that he can hunt deer and boar because they are not endangered is completely hypocritical. This pampered pompous man-child is a Philistine of the first order. Destroying works of art because you don’t like what they represent is no better than book burning, the mind set of a Nazi.

    Such a petulant act would not make $1′s worth of difference to the illegal ivory trade , the poachers and middlemen will be laughing themselves hoarse at his naivety.

    What next? Will he be pontificating to the Church of England that they should destroy all their historical ivory croziers and reliquaries , every family with a Victorian piano must pull out its ivory teeth (keys) at once and the UK museums must destroy all medieval and prehistoric ivory artefacts . That ivory needle from 3,000 BC must be disposed of immediately lest it encourage poaching.


    • Mrs.Krabapple says:

      My previous reference to Nazis wasn’t approved, but I’m submitting this again anyway (apparently other people can reference Nazis, so long as their argument is on the other side of the fence?). So, regarding Nazis, you know what Nazis used to do? Keep the gold teeth of their victims, because gold is precious. Elephant tusks are teeth, literally (incisors). So that’s a more accurate comparison.

  28. Mario says:

    The monarchy should be extinct, the entire royal family are nothing but egomaniac parasites leeching their financial wealth from the British tax payers.

  29. tekla says:

    I inherited 2 ivory necklaces frrom my aunt, who lived in south Africa. I’m definately not pro-ivory trade, but I wouldn’t destroy those pieces, I love wearing them and they’re probably older than me

  30. Jessie says:

    I think William should take a trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, and then build the same sort of resort in the UK. Maybe even in Australia. Not only would it show that he really cares, but that he has a heart, as well.

    And as for all that ivory, he could put it in a museum.