A new scientific paper on the human health impacts of lead ingestion from gamebirds shot with lead has recently been published.
This study uses measured levels of lead in gamebirds on sale in the UK to estimate health impacts.
Perhaps the most striking proposed impact is that for children, eating lead-shot gamebirds around once a fortnight would lead to a whole point reduction in IQ.
As an adult, if you eat game at a frequency of somewhere between every day and every week then you noticeably increase your systolic blood pressure, risk of chronic kidney disease and, in pregnant women, the risk of spontaneous abortion.
Now, I don’t eat game anything like that often, and maybe you don’t either, but it is highly likely that some people do – eg gamekeepers’ families. BASC is sitting on data on game intake which they have so far refused to disclose publicly despite being asked to reveal these data at the Defra/FSA Lead Ammunition group (see cryptic minutes here, here, here). It is thought that these data would disclose some surprisingly high intakes of game meat for some sectors of the game-shooting community.
Given that the details of the health impacts of lead in game food have been produced by nature conservationists as spin-offs from studies of non-compliance with existing legislation on ammunition use by hunters, and the conservation impacts of lead on wildlife, it is time for the shooting community to step forward and do the following:
- BASC should publish their questionnaire survey data on game meat intake – if intake levels are uniformly low then this is a non-issue in human health terms. BASC’s long term refusal to disclose the information is obstructive. If these data show (or suggest) high game meat intakes for some people then the refusal to disclose this, and refusal to call for a move to non-toxic shot, are both scandalous.
- BASC and the Countryside Alliance should make it clear whether they have any concerns about the paper referred to here. Do they accept the science, and if not, why not?
- If BASC and Countryside Alliance accept the science then what implications are there for the sale of game meat shot with lead and their position on non-toxic shot?
The paper briefly described here, though it is publicly available so you can read it yourself, is just the latest small advance in our knowledge of the impacts of lead on animal and human health. It is an elaboration of previous knowledge rather than a shocking revelation. The general impacts of lead on wildlife and human health have been known for years – and known to the shooting community for years. And yet the shooting community has taken no action at all to clean up their act. This is a badly-led community, stuck in a rut and closed to any new ideas or evidence.
If the shooting community had had the faintest glimmerings of common sense then years ago they would have promoted the use of non-toxic ammunition and claimed the moral high(-ish) ground. Instead they have promoted the eating of game, knowing of the health impacts of lead ingestion, and vilified those who seek simply for shooting to use non-toxic ammunition. As time goes on the shooting community digs itself into a deeper and deeper hole on this issue ‘led’ by the Countryside Alliance.