Lead Week, 2 #Pbweekmia

800px-7.5_CartridgesThis is Lead Week on this blog.







Some background:


Lead is a poison.

We have removed lead from paints, water pipes, fishing weights, and most significantly from petrol.  All of these changes were opposed by vested interests at the time and no-one is asking for those changes to be reversed these days (see here, here, here, here)

There is amazingly good evidence that removing lead from the environment reduces aggression in human societies (see also here, here, here).

Young children and foetuses are particularly susceptible to the impacts of lead (here, here).

Symptoms of high lead levels are various.

Consumption of one game meat meal per fortnight (of small game such as pheasants, grouse, pigeons, partridges, shot with lead shot) will reduce child IQ by 1 point.

The Food Standards Agency describe ‘occasional consumption of lead-shot game birds’ that would have minimal effect on overall exposure to lead as being ‘about twice a year’ (see here and here).

Ingestion of spent lead ammunition poisons c73,000 wildfowl in the UK each winter and it’s not a nice way to go.

An expert group, whose existence is partly down to me when I worked at the RSPB, and on which I sat until I left the RSPB, has produced a report whose findings have been in the public domain for months, even though Defra is mysteriously sitting on the actual report. The findings of that group recommend that lead ammunition should be phased out as:

  • Safer alternatives to lead ammunition are now available and being improved and adapted all the time for use in different shooting disciplines. There is considerable experience from other countries where change has already been undertaken.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that a phase out of lead ammunition and the use of alternatives would have significant drawbacks for wildlife or human health or, at least, none that carry the same scale of risks as continuing use of lead; though there are procedural, technical and R&D issues still to work on and resolve.
  • There is no convincing evidence on which to conclude that other options, short of replacement of lead ammunition, will address known risks to human health, especially child health

The UK government agreed at an international meeting in Quito in autumn 2014 to phase out the use of lead ammunition in three years – and has, as yet, not done a thing.

Countries such as Denmark banned the use of lead ammunition a couple of decades ago – shooters wouldn’t want it back.

There are no real problems for shooters in switching to ammunition which is non-toxic and which avoids all these harmful impacts.


Banning lead ammunition isn’t difficult – lots of countries, and states in the USA, have done it.

Banning lead isn’t banning shooting – it’s banning poisoning our environment and our food.

Defra is sitting on a scientific report which comes to the conclusion that lead ammunition should be banned and has been inactive for over seven months. This is a scandal.




Lead Week – Pb#1


This is Lead Week on this blog.

Later this week I will reveal the results of the analyses* of Red Grouse purchased in Iceland Food stores earlier in the year.

These results will be of particular interest to Iceland Foods and Iceland Food customers.

These results will also be of interest to other supermarkets which sell game meat (such as Pheasants and partridges) that have been shot with lead shot.  This includes Waitrose and Sainsburys. 

These results will be of interest to restaurants such as Rules, The Jugged Hare, the Galvin Bistro de Luxe, etc who make a point of selling game meat to their customers.

These results will be of interest to Liz Truss and Rory Stewart, Defra ministers who have sat on the report of the Lead Ammunition Group that they received seven and a half months ago and have not released to the public and have not commented upon.

These results will be of interest to the Food Standards Agency who have also had access to the results of the Lead Ammunition Group for many years and whose job it is to protect the public from hazards.

These results may be of interest to health correspondents of media who might want to ask government what it is doing about the health risks of lead-shot game and to ask shooting organisations why they oppose the phasing out of lead ammunition even though safe, non-toxic alternatives exist (and have been adopted elsewhere in the world).

These results probably won’t be of any interest at all to the shooting community, including the Countryside Alliance, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and Moorland Association, who have known of the high lead levels in game meat for many years and have still pushed game meat as a healthy option.


But before we get to the results I intend to set out the background to this subject in a series of blogs.


*The analyses that I am going to describe in a series of blogs this week were carried out by Dr Mark Taggart’s team at the Environmental Research Institute (University of the Highlands and Islands, Thurso). The graphs of the results were produced by them as well. I, Mark Avery, didn’t have anything to do with analysing the samples except that I bought them and supplied them to Dr Taggart, and Dr Taggart had nothing to do with writing these blogs or the opinions expressed in them – having solely supplied the analytical data.


A bit of perspective

Our e-petition to ask government to ban driven grouse shooting received 33,615 signatures (and it is still going up slowly as people click on their confirmation emails).

I think that is pretty good and certainly represents considerable progress on last year.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped – but I can’t name everyone here because some people wish to remain anonymous and there will be many people who have done things of which I am unaware. So I would like to say ‘Thank you!‘ to everyone – whoever you are and whatever you did.

My mind is moving towards the next e-petition – it has been for a while.

The first question is ‘Should there be one?’. I’m pretty sure the answer to that is ‘yes’ because we still have momentum.  As we approached the finishing post we were still gathering lots of names.  Next time, we can do even better. And, to be fair, we (that’s mostly me, but a bunch of mates as well) are learning all the time.  But I am interested in what you think – either publicly, as a comment here, or privately by email.

The second question would be what should it say – and is there a possibility of engaging our sleeping wildlife conservation organisations to join us. We’ll see.

Standing back for a moment, 33,615 signatures is a lot. An awful lot.

The bit of perspective is that when 100 UK environmental and wildlife organisations joined together to ask the public and their members to support the nature directives they persuaded ‘over 100,000‘ people in three months.

Honestly, give me the membership lists, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and a small fraction of the money that those 100 organisations invested in the nature directives (which are well worth supporting) and I promise you, absolutely promise you, that I’d deliver 100,000 signatures in six months to get a debate to ban driven grouse shooting.

We’re doing well – and we are building a movement for change.

Have a few weeks off – but there is more to do.




Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill



The ‘100 club’

Our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting closed at midnight on Thursday and now, with most people who signed before midnight having clicked on the confirmation email, it has reached a total of 33,614 signatures; rather satisfyingly, exactly 50% more than last year’s similar e-petition.

Without any practical support from our large wildlife NGOs, we achieved a third of the total needed to trigger a debate in parliament. Just think where we could have reached with that support.

The constituencies with at least 100 signatures are as follows:

Calder Valley 457 signatures – Craig Whittaker MP, CON

High Peak 158 signatures – Andrew Bingham MP, CON

Isle of Wight 155 signatures – Andrew Turner MP, CON

Brighton Pavilion 148 signatures – Caroline Lucas MP, GREEN

Bristol West 147 signatures – Thangam Debbonaire MP, LAB

North Norfolk 142 signatures – Norman Lamb MP, LIB

Penrith and the Borders  142 signatures – Rory Stewart MP, CON, and Defra minister

Stroud 133 signatures – Neil Carmichael MP, CON

Cambridge 132 signatures – Daniel Zeichner MP, LAB

Sheffield Central 129 signatures – Paul Blomfield MP, LAB

Westmorland and Lonsdale 127 signatures – Tim Farron MP, LIB, amd Liberal leader

Skipton and Ripon 127 signatures – Julian Smith MP, CON

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey 125 signatures –  Drew Hendry MP, SNP

Norwich South 123 signatures – Clive Smith MP, LAB

South Cambs 122 signatures – Heidi Allen MP, CON

Torridge and West Devon 119 signatures – Geoffrey Cox MP, CON

Derbyshire Dales 115 signatures – Patrick McCloughlin MP, CON

Truro and Falmouth 115 signatures – Sarah Newton MP, CON

South Norfolk 114 signatures – Richard Bacon MP, CON

Thirsk and Malton 111 signatures – Keith Hollinrake MP, CON

Ross, Skye, Lochaber 110 signatures – Ian Blackford MP, SNP

West Dorset 109 signatures – Oliver Letwin MP, CON

Southeast Cambs 106 signatures – Lucy Frazer MP, CON

Northeast Bedfordshire 105 signatures – Alistair Burt MP, CON

Exeter 105 signatures – Ben Bradshaw MP, LAB

Central Devon 104 signatures – Mel Stride MP, CON

Richmond (Yorks) 103 signatures – Rishi Sunak MP, CON

Lancaster and Fleetwood 101 signatures – Cat Smith MP, LAB

Harrogate and Knaresborough 101 signatures – Andrew Jones MP, CON

Suffolk Coastal 101 signatures – Theresa Coffey MP, CON

Argyll and Bute 100 signatures – Brendan O’Hara MP, SNP

Edinburgh North and Leith 100 signatures – Deidre Brock MP, SNP

Keighley 100 signatures – Kris Hopkins MP, CON

Totnes 100 signatures – Sarah Wollaston MP CON


If you live in any of these constituencies why not write to your MP to tell them that you signed the e-petition and that their constituency was one of the areas of high support. Ask them what their own views are on the subject.



33,575 (and counting)



Thank you to the 33,574 of you who also signed my (our) e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

This sends a message to government and the grouse shooting industry that things need to change.

You have sent a strong message to wildlife NGOs that there is huge popular support for a much more radical solution to the management of our uplands and the protection of threatened wildlife than they are pursuing.

We are building a movement – and we will win!

We will be back – watch this space.



The final total will creep up through the day as people click on the confirmation emails they have received.




We have a much better plan

Photo: Chris Packham (thanks Chris!)

Photo: Chris Packham (thanks Chris!)

If these kids are to see Hen Harriers in the English uplands then we need a better plan than that of the hapless Defra.

And we do…

…here it is…

Ban driven grouse shooting! – please sign this e-petition now!


E-petition closes at 23:59, today, Thursday.


We have a better plan


Photo: Gordon Yates (Thank you Gordon!)

If we are all to see Hen Harriers (like the female above) in the English uplands then we need a better plan than that of the hapless Defra.

And we do…

…here it is…

Ban driven grouse shooting! – please sign this e-petition now!

E-petition closes at 23:59, today, Thursday.


This is a damaged landscape

An ugly view in Scotland. Ripe for reform. Photo: Donside April 2014 by Peter Cairns

Photo: Donside April 2014 by Peter Cairns (Thank you Peter!)

No-one could look across this landscape and see a natural one. It is burned to bits!

This management is solely carried out so that there are lots of Red Grouse that rich people can shoot.

Grouse moor management leads to increased flood risk, reduced aquatic life, higher water treatment costs, damage to protected habitats and is underpinned by persecution of protected birds of prey.

For more natural, more sustainable, more useful and yes, more beautiful uplands, please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting. It closes at midnight tomorrow (Thursday) – so please do it now. Already, over 30,000 people from all over the UK have signed it.



News: West Pennine Moors heading for notification

photo 2-3

Natural England is taking forward the West Pennine Moors for SSSI notification in the coming financial year. Hooray! It’s obviously not a done-deal, just an almost done-deal, but it is the freeing up of a log jam that never should have happened.

This is very pleasing news and the next time i see someone senior from Natural England I might have to buy them lunch!

Well done NE – I still wonder whether you are fit for purpose but at least this shows that you aren’t totally unfit.

Also well done to all those locals who have been collecting data on Sphagnum mosses, breeding birds and other wildlife for years – and years – to make the case that was well-made years ago, and have then persevered with writing letters, sending emails, and having meetings in order to progress the case satisfactorily.

And well done to the local MP, Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen, Con), who has been very active and supportive too. Well done, him!

And well done to others who have done things about which I know nothing in order to help this come to pass – whoever you are, and whatever you did, well done to you too.
It’s all in the past now (almost) but if you want to read previous blogs on the West Pennine Moors see Natural England seem to have forgotten the West Pennine moors, 2 April 2015West Pennine Moors, 12 June 2015; West Pennine Moors Again, 22 June 2015; Dear Natural England, 22 June 2015; Fair do’s, 22 June 2015; Gate Zero and the West Pennine Moors, 21 September 2015; What the frack? West Pennine Moors, 28 September 2015; A barn of special scientific interest? West Pennine Moors, 28 September 2015; West Pennine Moors complaint to NE over their response, 28 September 2015; Gate Zero and the West Pennine Moors, 5 October 2015.

So there is good news! Hooray!

But there is also, of course, a list of uncertainties and worries.

No site is protected until it is protected – and the West Pennine Moors are simply heading for protection, they haven’t yet got it.  Have a sparkling white, but keep the champagne on ice for a while.

Protected sites need their protection to be implemented, and that remains to be seen.

But more generally, the fact that we kicked up a fuss about this site has certainly helped its cause, but that may be to the detriment of other sites.  I am still concerned at the Gate Zero process and the possibility that some equally deserving sites haven’t made the cut.

But for now – celebrate because something good is happening.

West Pennines-1