If, as Genesis 1:26 informs us, God gave mankind dominion over all the earth, there must surely be weeping in Heaven. We humans have treated our planet with shocking contempt, and nowhere is that more evident than in the devastation we have wrought on the creatures that share this fragile sphere with us.
Several hundreds, if not thousands, of species of animal become extinct each year, mostly as a consequence of human activity; and while every creature unarguably has a vital role to play in our delicately-interwoven ecosystem, it should cause us to sit up when we hear that the African elephant is listed as endangered by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
In 2016, the Great Elephant Census reported that African savanna elephant populations declined by 30 per cent (equal to 144,000 elephants) between 2007 and 2014. The current rate of decline is 8 per cent per year. The primary cause of the decline is the poaching of elephants for ivory.
This rate of diminution in elephant numbers is unsustainable. The hard, sobering fact is that we are contemplating the imminent extinction of one of our most iconic creatures; and, whilst international bans on the ivory trade are in place, they are clearly proving insufficient to give an adequate degree of protection to the elephants.
We should therefore all welcome the Ivory Bill, which received its second reading in the Commons on Monday of this week. The Bill, when enacted, will impose a complete prohibition on the sale of items containing ivory. There will be some small exemptions, certainly, but for all practical purposes the legislation will mean that it will be illegal to sell ivory in the United Kingdom.
The new legal framework will put the UK at the forefront of the fight against the ivory trade, and the measures in the Bill have been welcomed by such bodies as the WWF, the London Zoological Society, the Tusk Trust and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
This is something in which all of us in this country should take pride; and perhaps there will even be some joy in Heaven.