Lead poisoning still killing lots of birds and FSA advice on human health impacts ‘delayed’.

A just-published study reveals that lead gunshot is still a threat to wild waterbirds in the UK, over a decade after the use of lead gunshot was banned in wetlands and for shooting wildfowl in England ( similar but slightly different legislation pertains elsewhere in the UK).

A gizzard with lead shot. Photo: Milton Friend

Waterfowl ingest spent lead shot whilst feeding.  Sometimes they may mistake the shot particles for seeds or small molluscs (after all – these ducks are feeding either underwater or by sticking their beaks into muddy sediments) or take them up ‘deliberately’ but mistaking them for grit particles which they store in their gizzards to aid the grinding of their food.  Some dead birds were found with hundreds of lead particles in their gizzards.

Lead is a poison, and elevated lead blood levels were found in 34% of over 250 waterbirds tested at four sites across the UK in the winter of 2010/11.  Lead poisoning caused 11.8% of waterfowl deaths (excluding infectious diseases) in the period after the lead shot ban compared with a higher figure of 20.8% in the preceding decade and 13.7% in an even earlier period.  Things might just be getting slightly better – but hardly at all and not with any certainty.

These results are unsurprising given that previous studies have shown shocking non-compliance with the law which bans lead shot being used to shoot wildfowl.

In contrast, the incidence of mortality from lead poisoning in mute swans (which used to be poisoned by fishermen’s angling weights) has fallen dramatically since the use of almost all lead weights was banned.

By Lord Mountbatten (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Also in contrast, in the USA, where millions of  waterfowl used to die from lead poisoning, this number is now much reduced thanks to effective legislation and enforcement.  Half a dozen years after the ban in the USA 68% of mallard contained no ingested lead shot.  That is quite an impressive turn-around.  This fact sheet  from the American Bird Conservancy is a very useful summary of the issue and the science – maybe UK nature conservationists should produce something equally clear and compelling?

After a decade there is still evidence from the UK of large numbers of deaths of waterbirds due to lead poisoning, non-compliance by hunters and a complete lack of willingness to engage with this issue.  Not surprisingly nature conservationists are getting a bit impatient.

Martin Spray, the Chief Executive of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust said:

Considering that the law currently isn’t protecting waterbirds in Britain the way it is meant to, the most practical and effective solution would appear to be to extend the restrictions on the use of lead shot to cover all shooting.

“Non-toxic alternatives are available and have been used successfully for years in countries such as Denmark. Spokespeople for the shooting community have always said that, when the evidence is forth coming, they will support practical proposals to address the threat to wildlife. We very much look forward to working with them.”

Professor Chris Perrins, LVO, FRS, Emeritus Fellow of the Edward Grey Institute at Oxford University, has been the Queen’s Warden of the Swans since 1993. His research into lead poisoning of mute swans built the case for the restrictions on the sale of lead angling weights. He said:

“I find it extraordinary that we are still using lead [for shooting]. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution dealt with lead in 1983. One of its recommendations was [to phase out] all lead shooting shot and all lead fishing weights. Yet here we are nearly 30 years on and we are still using them.”

And this blog revealed last week that the RSPB had changed to a position of wanting an outright ban on lead shot.

Now if there were a Food Standards Agency for Ducks it would be advising them to cut as much lead as possible out of their diets.  That’s actually what we have been doing too – removing it from petrol, paint, water pipes etc.

The FSA was expected to issue updated guidance this week on human lead intake as a result of recent improvements in our knowledge of the impacts of lead on our bodies and the ingestion rates of lead from different sources of food – but that update has been delayed.  It couldn’t be that the shooting community is putting on pressure to delay or weaken this advice, surely?

Rabbit meat. By Garitzko (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
There is no doubt that game sold for human consumption can have high levels of lead that comes from the shot used to kill that game; there is no doubt that eating enough lead will do you harm (and see here).  But how many people might come into that affected category?  Not me, as I eat  few meals of lead-shot game a year (I’d happily eat more game if it were lead-free), and maybe not you, but I had an interesting ‘discussion’ last week with habituees of the National Gamekeepers Organisation’s Facebook page. One of them appeared to eat two pheasants a week in his sandwiches, another said he had two game meals a week and another said three game meals a week, and many fill their freezers with lead-shot game in season and live off it through the year.   This is enough to suggest high game intake rates for some sections of society and that will mean high lead intake rates too.

We need data on game intake rates to assess risks to people, and BASC is still sitting on data they collected several years ago.  The non-disclosure of these data is shocking and utterly reprehensible.

But selling game is big business. Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, TESCO and Sainsbury’s all sell game.  The Countryside Alliance promotes a ‘Game to Eat’ campaign that is noticeably silent about any adverse health risks of eating lead-shot game, particularly those for the most vulnerable, such as children.

These are some quotes from the Game-to-Eat webpage which bears the banner of the Countryside Alliance and its unconvincing claim to be the ‘Voice of the Countryside’:

‘A tasty and healthy alternative to Lamb, Chicken, Beef or Pork’

‘Game is wild, natural and free range with a distinctive flavour making it a great alternative to beef, pork, lamb and chicken. And, as it’s low in cholesterol and high in protein Game is one of the healthiest meats available today. For example, venison, with its brilliant taste and extra lean meat, is perfect for anyone on a low fat diet.’

‘Results from research commissioned by the Game-to-Eat campaign, suggest that there are real health benefits to eating game. Venison is high in rotein (sic), low in saturated fatty acids and contains higher levels of iron than any other red meat. Pheasant and partridge also contain a high level of iron, protein, vitamin B(6) and selenium, which helps to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.’

The evidence of wildlife problems and human health problems have grown over time – but the shooting organisations such as BASC and the GWCT, and the Countryside Alliance (who belong in a category of their own) have played little part in improving the evidence base and paid little heed to the evidence.  They have known about the evidence for years and have been updated as and when new facts became available.  Yet the response from the shooting community has been to remain almost completely silent on these issues except to attack those who have advanced the frontiers of knowledge.  With leadership like this the shooting community really doesn’t deserve any more time to get its act together on the issue of lead shot.  Shooters have had their chance and done nothing.  In fact they have obstructed moves that would reduce the exposure of people and wildlife to lead in the environment and denigrated those who have studied the subject and produced assessments of the problems (click here, here, here).

Use of lead shot should be banned throughout the UK now.


35 Replies to “Lead poisoning still killing lots of birds and FSA advice on human health impacts ‘delayed’.”

  1. Just an observation when reading (yet another) article on mortality on wildfowl caused by spent lead shot this morning on the Wildlife Extra site (which I can’t seem to find the relevant Tweet for right now) but the article can be read here: http://www.wildlifeextra.com//go/news/lead-poison-uk.html#cr

    The article shows 3 photos – an x-ray of a gizzard, a swan autopsy and a gizzard cut open showing lead shot. Are these 3 photos taken from the same bird? The article doesn’t state this one way or another.

    However, the swan having the autopsy being carried out on it seems to me to be a Bewick’s swan. As Bewick’s swans are migratory, and are in the UK from mid-October to March and spend the rest of the year travelling to and from their breeding grounds in Siberia, how can the source of the lead in the bird’s gizzard be pinpointed as originating in the UK, and therefore be relevant to a study of wildfowl mortality due to spent lead shot in the UK? Could the bird not have picked up this lead shot somewhere along it’s migratory journeys through any number of countries where lead shot is used legally?

    As I said at the beginning; ‘just an observation’.

    1. Gethin – It’s a fair point that lead may be picked throughout their migratory range wherever it is used, which is why we need international collaboration on this problem.

      Fourteen species were found to have died from lead poisoning in the recent WWT study (published this week). And the WWT research does show the problem occurs in GB. Blood lead levels from live birds are indicative of exposure within the previous 30-40 days and the birds were sampled well into the winter (indeed many of the swans sampled had been seen in the area prior to this 40 day ‘window’).

      Given that birds such as these swans regularly feed in agricultural areas where it’s legal to use lead for e.g. pheasant or pigeon shooting, and that in England we know that there’s poor compliance with the existing restrictions, it’s not too surprising to find that lead poisoning is still a problem.

      By the way the photos are not the same bird.

  2. The obvious question is where are they obtaining the lead shot cartridges? I assume it’s illegal to sell them (in the UK)? Cutting off the supply, though possibly difficult, would surely be an answer?

    1. Richard – no it’s legal to sell them as it’s legal to use lead cartridges to shoot non-waterfowl and away from wetlands. Your locally sold pheasant, wood pigeon or rabbit is almost certain to be shot with lead. Of course, if a complete ban came in the situation would change dramatically.

      1. Mark

        Thanks for clarifying this. I would be keen to ban the use of lead-shot, totally, anywhere. There can be no argument to retain it, even if there was no human health issue, but only wildlife health issue.

        BTW, your book is a superb read, though not finished it yet and I hope that there is a volume 2…


        1. Richard – thanks v much for the btw! No Volume 2 planned, but am, right now, either side of replying to your comment, arguing the toss over a publishing contract for another, quite different, natural history book. Wish me luck!

          1. Well, please pass this quote on to the publisher…

            “You’d be mad not to!”.

            Best wishes and no luck needed – as I’ve said before, you have a gift.


  3. Your comment on how much game people eat. After Chernobyl in the Forestry Commission we checked the safe levels for eating venison – and, basically, you’d have to have eat it for virtually every meal, so we assumed there’d be no risk. Until to our horror we heard about a young ranger in South Scotland who, for the sake of economy, was living pretty much on the Livers of the deer he shot. The offal is traditionally the stalkers perk and, of course, the liver was where the radiation was most concentrated. A salutory tale – there’ll be somebody out there right now….

  4. Richard and Mark – the law in England and Wales since 1999 is that only non-toxic shot (i.e. alternatives to lead shot, which include steel, bismuth, tin, molybdenum and tungsten) may be used to shoot all shootable species of duck and geese, coots and moorhens. Lead shot may be used on other shootable species of birds and mammals pheasants, woodpigeons, rabbits, etc.).

    The law in Scotland differs inasmuch as lead shot is prohibited when shooting over wetlands, regardless of species, which, in my view, is a more sensible approach.

    I have used nothing but bismuth and tungsten when shooting ducks and geese since 1999, and even prior to that on one of the estuaries I shoot over as it is an SSSI, and am certain that the vast majority of wildfowlers do just the same.

    1. Gethin – thank you. Thank you for your comment and thank you for using non-toxic shot.

      It may be, I only say may be, that most wildfowlers behave the same as you but there are contra-indications as far as the wider shooting community is concerned. First, 68% of ducks sold for human consumption contained lead shot in their flesh and so most wildfowl that are sold for human consumption are being shot illegally. Perhaps not by wildfowlers, but by somebody with a gun pointing it at wildfowl. And in the same study of compliance, 45% of BASC members polled said that they sometimes or always broke the law and used lead shot when they knew they shouldn’t. So it clearly is not the case that the vast majority of shooters behave as you do. So thank you again for being one of the small majority (for it is just over 50%) who claim that they do stick to the law.

  5. “In fact they have … denigrated those who have studied the subject”

    I followed those links and read the articles, at least one of which was barely comprehensible – voice-recognition software at work, or lead poisoning? Relying as they do on ad hominem attacks, they are worthless. If their own logic were to be applied, they would themselves be disqualified from any input to legislation.

    As Mark Gibbens suggested the other day, the main issue is lead in the environment, possibly rather more than avoidable human health hazards (“Doctor, Doctor, I’m cognitively impaired!”. “Stop eating lead, then, Homer”). The vogue is to ascribe a monetary value to the damage that lead in the environment causes to ecosystem services – perhaps the delay is to accommodate more hand-wringing about this.

    But there should be a fast-track for no-brain issues like lead shot.

    1. Filbert – I like your nutty sense of humour very much, and there is a strong kernel of sense in there too.

  6. What’s good for the Goose is good for the Gander

    “In fact they have obstructed moves that would reduce the exposure of people and wildlife to “lead” in the environment and denigrated those who have studied the subject and produced assessments of the problems ……..”

    Intellectual capacity is a rare thing these days – what?

  7. Mark describes the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) as a ‘shooting organisation’. I thought it might be helpful to set out our charitable objects to help allow Mark’s readers to decide how accurate or adequate is that description:

    To promote for the public benefit the conservation of game and its associated flora and fauna
    To conduct research into game and wildlife management (including the use of game animals as a natural resource) and the effects of farming and other land management practices on the environment, and to publish the useful results of such research
    To advance the education of the public and those managing the countryside in the effects of farming and management of land which is sympathetic to game and other wildlife
    To conserve game and wildlife for the public benefit including: where it is for the protection of the environment, the conservation or promotion of biological diversity through the provision, conservation, restoration or enhancement of a natural habitat; or the maintenance or recovery of a species in its natural habitat on land or in water and in particular where the natural habitat is situated in the vicinity of a landfill site.

    Whether or not, or to what extent these are the objects of a shooting organisation can be judged by Mark’s readers and others.

    Thee is no doubt that we, like the RSPB, and others, are closely involved in debates relating to shooting, wildlife and the natural environment. To that end, we are serving, along with the RSPB, Wildlife & Wetlands Trust and others, on the independent Lead Ammunition Group (LAG) established in April 2010. The purpose of the LAG is:

    to advise Defra and the FSA on:
    1) the key risks to wildlife from lead ammunition, the respective levels of those risks and to explore possible solutions to any significant threats, and

    2) the possible options for managing the risk to human health from the increased exposure to lead as a result of using lead ammunition

    The members of the LAG’s primary evidence and risk assessment subgroup have been evaluating the published evidence. This will be reviewed in November and will be reported back to the main LAG.

    This course of action has been agreed by the LAG members. It matters very much that the process continues to go forward in a professional and orderly way, in order to retain the confidence of all the interests involved which, in turn, will help resolve this very important issue.

    1. Tom – thank you. So I, and at least a few of my readers, would be interested to hear from the science-based GWCT whether you find any material fault in the science referred to in my blog of today? The PLOS ONE paper, today’s European Journal of Wildlife Research paper, the BASC/WWT compliance study, the Food and Chemical Technology paper? I know that you wouldn’t count yourself as a high-performance scientist but you would claim to be surrounded by lots of them. Maybe GWCT could be open about their view on the science – after all there is no confidentiality about published science and the policy debate would benefit from agreement on the fundamental science. Would you undertake to get back to us with an answer in the next week? GWCT is welcome to have a(nother) Guest Blog to set out your thoughts on this subject. Are you up for that?

  8. This lead issue is really fascinating me! I thank Filbert for his comment, I reiterate that if this issue is as important as you think it is (and I certainly cannot argue) then we need to look at the environmental issues. Surely a study of lead levels in various birds would be easy to do, this would give definitive proof of the harm of lead. I am fairly sure that birds suffer lots more than mammals probably due to their different digestion arrangements, therefore we should worry about them rather than people and other mammals. I will continue to eat game that has been shot by lead shot, I am fairly sold on using lead alternatives when shooting.

    The issue of clay pigeon shooting also needs mentioning…………

    My last point is that I am fairly amused by the faint ridicule of shooting and shooting organisations however I don’t think that it helps to bring the shooters and the conservationists together. Surely by working together we can sort this issue out. Just an idea, wouldn’t it be worth getting enlightened shooters to use non lead shot and report their results?

    My very, very last point is I will never finish FFB all the while I am reading your blogs (and links) and commenting!!

    1. Mark – thank you. The point about working with shooting groups – done that. This is not a new issue and it was brought to all our attention many years ago. BASC and GWCT have known about the growing evidence for harmful impacts on wildlife and people for years. The fact that they have achieved nothing in that time, and never stand up to the Countryside Alliance is the reason that conservationists are putting shooting on the spot. The slowly underperforming Lead Group is chaired by the boss of BASC who are keeping secret their survey of game intake by BASC members. The shooting community has proved itself to be hopeless on this issue. They are actually a disgrace in my opinion. Rant over.

      Non-toxic blog tomorrow.

      1. Mark, I am a passionate lover of the natural world especially the natural world around me here in Dorset, I also happen to shoot. I follow you avidly because I think you have some really interesting opinions that in the main I agree with. You also write very well and have a passion and tenacity that is quite frankly amazing. I am rapidly becoming a non toxic convert. If I an many 1000’s like me effect change from within the shooting fraternity surely that is a good thing. I am a member of BASC who I think are an admirable organisation and will endeavour to badger them about their policy. I am not a member of the CA.

        As I have said previously the alternatives to lead are not as good as lead however this maybe rather irrelevant if the environmental damage is considered.

        My current view is that I think it unlikely we will be throwing lead around for very long so we just as well change sooner rather than later.

        What are your views on clay shooting and lead shot?

        1. Mark – thank you.

          And let me take this opportunity to tap into your knowledge of shooting a bit please. But first let me answer your question on clay pigeon shooting.

          I don’t know much about clay pigeon shooting! I imagine that it will take place in country areas and will involve, over time, large amounts of lead falling to the ground over a relatively small area. The national wildlife impacts are likely to be small as the area involved is going to be relatively small and rarely involve any sites of high wildlife value. There is a case, about which I was told by a local to the area a few years ago (but I can’t actually remember the area) and which is mentioned by others now and again, where I believe that a farmer set up a poultry farm on a site where clays had been shot regularly and had to close down because the meat produced failed safety standards because of the high lead levels. These days that meat would be regarded as even less acceptable. And remember that game meat is not tested in the same way because no lead levels are set for that – despite it usually being shot with lead! So I would think that there is a bit of a worry about food production in areas that have had very high (and we are talking very high) levels of lead deposited on them through clay shooting and that people buying ex-clay shoots ought to give that a little bit of thought. Of course, the nearest thing that we come to a clay pigeon shoot in field sports is grouse shooting where the grouse butts are traditional places where large amounts of ammunition have been discharged over the same area for decades (but on only a few days a year). I wonder whether anyone has looked at soil and vegetation lead levels at different distances from grouse butts? Those are my thoughts – do you have some of your own?

          And may I please ask you (and anyone else out there) a shooting question to increase my knowledge? The Danes, I believe, banned all lead ammunition use some time ago. I’m told that even their Olympic shooting team had to train outside Denmark because lead is used in Olympic shooting. When I ask ‘How come we can’t switch completely away from lead shot if the Danes have done it for years? I rarely get an answer. On Twitter yesterday I (‘@markavery) asked ‘How do Danish shooters manage without lead?’ of David Taylor (@CAShoots) who is the Shooting Campaign Manager of the Countryside Alliance his response was ‘Do they? Maybe you should measure their compliance and find out.’. I don’t know whether he has any evidence to back up what appears to be a suggested slur against his ‘fellow’ shooters but my question still remains. If the Danes don’t need any lead in their shooting, why is there so much resistance to the phasing out of lead here? Those of us who are worried about lead impacts (no pun intended) on wildlife (quite a lot) and human health (a bit) grounds are always painted, by the Countryside Alliance (and sometimes by others) as being anti-shooting. I can’t see why our shooters can’t be more like the Danes.

          And another question. I am often told that wildfowlers comply to a very high level with the legal requirement not to use lead shot. It is often said that those 68% of purchased ducks which were shot with lead (illegally) must have been shot on pheasant shoots etc where lead use is still allowed (although not for shooting ducks, of course). So if UK wildfowlers have switched to using non-toxic ammunition why can’t pheasant shooters, partridge shooters etc? Are the ballistic needs of the wildfowler so very different from those of the 100-a-day pheasant shooter? I’ve never understood that either. Can anyone help me with that one please?

    2. I think you’re right that there should be an opportunity to bring the knowledge and love of countryside together of both sides. I spend a lot of time reading on conservation issues and about conservation biology in general (part professionally, part out of interest). As someone who also shoots, though, I find it depressing the amount of knowledge that is being published in Nature and other journals that a 19th century gamekeeper could have told you (with records to prove it) – mesopredator release, for example.

      It is entirely counter-productive for these two ‘camps’ to stand apart sniping at each other, when there’s usually far more that they agree on than disagree. Both would agree that biodiversity and sustaining healthy populations of the UK’s species is the aim; both would agree that the UK countryside isn’t really ‘wild’ in a real sense and cannot be left entirely to itself. Many amongst those who are against big-scale corporate pheasant shooting nevertheless support small-scale harvests of game and some woodland/moorland management; and many amongst the shooting community recognise that shooters have often been their own worse enemy in racking up huge tallies of driven game, or persecuting raptor species. There is a middle ground here.

      The GWCT is indeed an organisation that publishes evidence by and large supporting game shooting. However, you will also notice that their advice and research only supports certain game shooting practices, and as a whole I would say that it manages to remain much less political than organisations like the Countryside Alliance. It is more professionally managed, and even if you don’t like its research, it too is professionally carried out to scientific norms. Some of its research, like the Allerton Project, are invaluable additions to our knowledge about the countryside, and how practical steps can be taken to ensure productive farming alongside game management and conservation of protected species.

      Turning this into a bunfight helps no one.

  9. Hi Mark,
    All these kitchen table facts about lead shot get bandied about, with no references.
    I think you said the Americans had banned lead so if they have, I cannot see their powerful gun lobby rolling over easily if lead was better. Cannot you contact some one in one of the US conservation organizations.
    So over my coffee I did a quick google: “spread patterns of lead shot” and got this from what seems an authentic bit of info: http://www.gunnersden.com/index.htm.steelvslead.html

    ” Overview: Steel shot has proven to us that when the conversion is made right, that it is more than acceptable for field hunting use out to and beyond 40 yards.

    Lethal Penetration Study: Tom Roster, working in conjunction with the Cooperative Nontoxic Shot Education Program (CONSEP) has put together a database on the performance of lead shot vs. steel shot. In this study is an X-ray analysis of over 16,000 ducks and geese.

    A fact revealed by this study: A steel pellet, with an energy level equivalent to that of a lead pellet, provides 5% to 10% deeper penetration.”

    Surely the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, etc etc, have at least gone so far as to google for this info so they have info to say why lead is better.

    You don’t even seem to have to increase the charge to get the better “result”. If you read the rest of the web page. In fact it would seem to be more “humane” , a more concentrated pattern and effective kill and less spread of the odd deformed shot and lucky kill (and injury) so you have to be more accurate!

    Surely those trying to ban lead shot have this info.? rather than just my coffee break research.

    1. Andrew – thank you. That’s very useful. I’m sure that there are many people that you knew all this – but the details were news to me. Many thanks.

    2. A large number of US states have controls on lead shot for some game – not an out and out ban. As far as I am aware, it is mainly a question of wetland habitats – a similar situation as the UK.

      There are two problems here – firstly, doubts over the danger of lead shot (either as a soil contaminant or as a problem bioaccumulatively in shot form); and secondly, the necessary adaptation of chambers and barrels for steel shot. Until a stronger case is made for the former – and currently, it just isn’t strong enough – it will be a big battle trying to convince people to go about the costly process of purchasing new guns. I discount Bismuth as I’m afraid it’s both expensive and pretty useless unless you just like ‘bang’ noises.

      I’d still agree with much of what Mark Gibbons below, although as someone who spends a lot of time taking soil and rock samples, I would add that people are often completely unaware of the often very high levels of lead occurring naturally around us. The same can be said of cadmium and other dangerous heavy metals. For example, if I were to feed the limestone under our garden to a chicken as part of its feed, it would become violently ill. This doesn’t stop two (very famous) local mineral water companies using local aquifers for their products.

      I’d also add to Mark’s point below re: the kind of shooting that’s done in the UK – European shooters are more often than not shooting birds at what in the UK would be considered point blank range.

      And finally, Mark makes the same point that I do above, that antagonism is surely everyone’s worst enemy here.

  10. Mark, You are correct about clay pigeon shooting, it does take place in small areas (generally) and will impact (generally) on those small areas. In my day job I work as an ecological contractor, we are very often working on contaminated sites, it seems to me that poisoning land is going out of fashion. Aside from poisoning individual wetland birds or individual raptors surely we should strive to leave our planet more or less as we found it? Therefore I would think that clay pigeon shooters should not use lead and grouse shooters shouldn’t either!

    The reason that the shooting industry wants to keep lead is not one of total blinkered belligerence, and it is important that the ‘ban lead fraternity’ realise this. The ballistic advantages of lead cannot be overstated. Lead is also cheap, malleable therefore easy to work. The result is ammunition that is very effective, reduces wounding while being cheap and to an extent ”what Dad used”. There is also the issue that alternatives can damage older and classic guns (similar to putting unleaded petrol in your Austin 7). That said it is a poison. I don’t want to comment on the science, there are far more qualified people who you are in contact with, I am just a rank and file shooter and enthusiastic naturalist and environmentalist. I am fairly sure that if the science is correct (which I will assume it is) then we ought to have a phased retreat from lead. This phasing should be as quick as possible but should allow shooters to adapt.

    This then brings me on to Denmark. If lead is indeed banned in Denmark, and I shall assume it is then it would not be such an issue as in the UK as I am fairly confident organised shooting is less prevalent. The UK probably has the largest organised commercial shooting industry of any European country. In England pheasants are shot in valleys as ‘high birds’, as a sporting challenge this is the pinnacle of pheasant shooting and what domestic and overseas sportsmen pay for. The CA use this to defend lead, if lead is banned then employment will suffer. While this might be true to an extent shooting must adapt, hunting failed to adapt and was banned.

    The compliance of wildfowlers with the lead ban is very interesting. If you are on the foreshore with your 10 bore loaded with BB’s it is unlikely you are after pigeon! As the ban on lead became accepted there was no question of using lead. For a shooter inland who has some lead (say £6.75 per 25) in one pocket and bismuth in the other (say £35.25 per 25), there is temptation to use the lead illegally. Add to that the greater effectiveness of lead temptation gets too much………’I drove to the shoot at 80mph on the motorway, surely this is a small transgression too?’ NO, YOU ARE POISONING THE VERY ENVIRONMENT YOU HURRIED TO THIS MORNING ON YOUR ONE DAY OFF!!!!!!

    Your blog has pretty much convinced me, I am going to phase out my use of lead and I am going to continue to champion this cause. Please try and convince other shooters the way you have convinced me. Since engaging with this debate I have spoken to a fair number of shooters, I think if sold better the vast majority would support the phasing out of lead. If lead was phased out the alternatives would improve, the cheap price of lead has always been the chief problem!

    I really believe that many organisations are rather too political, the RSPB implies that without it fieldsportsmen and others would decimate wildlife and shooting organisations imply that without them to protect shooters interests the ‘antis’ would regulate shooting into oblivion. While hardliners on each side are possibly right about each other the vast majority of birders, fieldsportsmen and others are less extreme and would probably not seek to alienate the other.

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