It's happened. The green and cuddly lobby have forced the hand of the main UK shooting bodies to cave in under pressure and declare that lead shot for game shooting is to be banned from 2025.
Here in full is the statement jointly issued by BASC, the Countryside Alliance, British Game Alliance, Country Land and Business Association, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, Moorland Association, Scottish Land & Estates and Scottish Association for Country Sports.:
"In consideration of wildlife, the environment and to ensure a market for the healthiest game products, at home and abroad, we wish to see an end to both lead and single-use plastics in ammunition used by those taking all live quarry with shotguns within five years. The shooting community must maintain its place at the forefront of wildlife conservation and protection. Sustainability in our practices is of utmost importance.
Many years ago, wetland restrictions demanded a move away from lead shot and we believe it is necessary to begin a further phased transition. Recently, there have been significant developments in the quality and availability of non-lead shotgun cartridges, and plastic cases can now be recycled. For the first time, biodegradable shot cups for steel shot, with the necessary ballistics to ensure lethality, are available. These welcome advances are continuing at an ever-quickening pace, in response to demand from a changing market. Such advances mean that, over the coming years, a complete transition is achievable.
We are jointly calling for our members to engage in this transition and work with us, the Gun Trade Association and the cartridge manufacturers to ensure that further viable alternatives are developed for every situation involving live quarry. This is an opportunity to take the initiative and ensure the reputation of the shooting community, as custodians of the countryside, is both maintained and enhanced."
Call me old fashioned, but I see this as bowing to the PC brigade. All these organisations have previously declared that there is no scientific evidence to support the emotional 'facts'. Furthermore I offer these articles below in support.
Charles Clover Sunday Times Oct 2012:
"Short autumn days never make me sad. I am one of those people who associate golden leaves and shafts of yellow light with salmon coursing up rivers and the prospect of partridge and pheasant to shoot — provided some kind soul invites me to take part. So I must confess what I’ve just learnt has come as a bit of a shock. There I was at the Conservative party conference having an agreeable dinner with some friends from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, for whom I had just chaired a fringe event, when someone explained that the birdy people had come out against lead shot. This I did not know. They have joined the doughty Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust in calling for a ban on its use in game shooting anywhere in Britain.
It is the strangest sensation for an environmentalist to find you are on the other side, rather as if you were fighting for the Confederacy in America in 1861. Hostile forces are massing against the kind of shooting I have known since I was a boy. The advocates of a ban on lead shot say they are not against shooting. But they clearly include people who think driven game shooting should end and some who are opposed to killing birds for sport. All unite behind the line that it is wrong to spray toxic materials around the countryside. There they have a point, or part of one. When I hear it, though, the emotional part of me says: reason not the need to use my father’s light, finely balanced 1938 English 16-bore, with its walnut stock. Will there be any point in me handing that down to my sons? Non-toxic bismuth shot is expensive (£25 for a box of 25 cartridges, against £8 for lead) and steel, although cheaper, is lighter and may wound rather than kill. If you use steel in an old gun, the barrels may eventually blow up in your face because the steel is tougher than they are.
This looks like the end of the heirloom Holland and Hollands and Purdeys — worth tens of thousands more than my gun. We will have to invest in new weapons that are heavier and can fire big steel balls, with a bigger charge, to knock anything out of the sky. With clay pigeons there is a risk of ricochet. Sawmills complain if steel shot ends up in timber. The traditional part of me says: I will fight you for the right to keep to the old ways. Reason then kicks in, but I can see how country people get angry. That said, wildfowl are still dying from lead poisoning more than a decade after a ban in England on using lead shot to kill ducks and geese, according to research released last week. Large numbers of dead swans, ducks and other waterfowl — about 12% on the trust’s reserves — had lead shot in their gizzards, where hard food is broken up. This is unacceptable. Also out last week was new advice from the Food Standards Agency on eating game. It declared there was no safe level for lead and people who frequently eat lead-shot game should reduce their intake. For eccentric hereditary peers and their gamekeepers this advice probably comes too late, but it is important for toddlers, pregnant women and women trying for a baby because lead can affect the developing brain. Lead is toxic and accumulates in the body. This we knew. But publication of the new advice is further evidence that the opponents of lead shot are on the march.
This has been a long time coming. The 1983 report by the royal commission on environmental pollution that did for lead in petrol also recommended phasing out lead shot. A ban in certain areas and on the hunting of water birds duly came into force, initially in England, in 1999. The problem is the law is still not understood and there seems to have been poor compliance, although this is apparently on mixed shoots inland rather than on foreshores where wildfowlers are properly equipped. The trust uses proven non-compliance in one circumstance to argue for a ban on the use of lead shot in all game shooting, as in Denmark and Holland. There are as many holes in its argument as in a road sign in the Wild West. The trust studied birds on its wetlands, where all shooting is banned, so where did the waterfowl pick up the shot? Some of it must have been there a long time. Other shot got there because the birds are migratory and picked it up in countries with no ban on lead in wetlands or, more worryingly, on agricultural land. We need to understand the pathways.
In the meantime there is certainly a case for a properly enforced ban on lead shot in and around wetlands, applied across Europe. The trust praises the United States, where something like this has been achieved but where lead is still used in other areas. Why the strident calls for a ban? People suspect it is because the argument is not going the trust’s way on the Lead Ammunition Group, the outfit set up by the last government to resolve the question of what to do about lead shot, due to report next year. I can see the end coming for lead, but the case must be properly and scientifically made if shooting people are to go along with it. The suspicion remains that the real target is the way we shoot in Britain — a huge undertaking that brings £1.6 billion a year into the countryside — and beside which Denmark’s rough shooters and wildfowlers are a cottage industry. That’s where shooting will end up if we aren’t careful — with the only legal use for lead, post-Tory party conference, being on burglars."
From 2012 by Guy N Smith, who writes for several of our shooting magazines.
"I requested a blood test to determine the level of lead in my blood. According to the internet the acceptable blood lead concentrations in healthy persons without excessive exposure to environmental sources of lead is less than 10ug/dL for children and less that 25 ug/dL for adults. My doctor was somewhat surprised at my request but agreed, stating that I would have to pay for it. I was only too happy to fork out £40 in an attempt to dispel the malicious myth. It turned out to be money well spent. I have eaten game since I was old enough to consume solid foods. During the war years when meat rationing was in force we ate whatever my father shot. Without the benefit of a freezer, this comprised game throughout the winter months and fresh rabbit and pigeon during the rest of the year. Further to this, I had a small cartridge loading business during the 1960's when I must have handled tons of lead shot.
Nowadays I am stripping down shotgun cartridges on a regular basis for review in this column. Hence I am undoubtedly classified as having excessive exposure to lead.
The result of my test showed that the level of lead in my bloodstream was just 5ug/dL, half that of a child without excessive exposure! That says it all as far as I am concerned and I shall ignore further press releases on this ridiculous claim with the contempt it deserves."
And a comment from an American game shooter:
"Here in the States, the only direct impact lead had on me was when our Environmental Protection Agency shut down a 50 foot indoor firing range we had in an Army Reserve center, where I was the senior officer. Inadequate ventilation, they said. Too much lead in the air. Well, we had all the soldiers who worked there full time, not just one weekend a month, tested for lead in their blood. None of them had a blood lead level that was out of the normal range for adults. And in all cases, it was well below the Center for Disease Control's level of concern. Similarly, a study conducted on several hundred volunteers in North Dakota--where hunting and the consumption of wild game are quite common--showed that their average blood lead level was below the nationwide average. And in no case did it approach the CDC's level of concern."
I am really rather annoyed that this has happened. I belong to BASC and the Countryside Alliance. They are not speaking for me.