Guest Blog – Christopher Graffius (BASC) Lead Shot

Christopher Graffius is the Director of Communications at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC). He enjoys shooting and fishing and goes wildfowling on the Dee estuary and shoots game in North Wales.

Mark Avery has invited me to contribute a “guest blog”. I’m happy to do so because I’m convinced that interaction between those who watch birds and those who hunt them – and remember that the two are often the same – is essential for the benefit of the wildlife we all cherish. It’s when we retreat, or are driven, to our respective trenches, that we’ll make no progress and birds that we all love will lose out.

No shooter wants to see a bird suffering from lead poisoning, nor is widespread mortality among wildfowl of any benefit to shooting. BASC wants to see an abundant population of our quarry species, and a healthy environment in which to shoot. That’s precisely why we take conservation seriously enough to put it in the title of the association. It’s a little known fact that the shooting community spends £250 million a year and gives 2.7 million work days to conservation. That’s the equivalent of 12,000 full time conservation jobs. It’s not just a matter of reserves. Shooting is involved in the management of two-thirds of the rural land area in the UK with two million hectares actively managed for conservation. It isn’t often realised that shooting is about much more than squeezing a trigger. It’s about being in, contributing to and enjoying a rich and diverse environment. That’s been one of the best traditions in British shooting, as Peter Scott, a keen wildfowler in his youth, would have recognised.

That’s why the UK enacted a variety of bans on using lead shot to shoot wildfowl or over wetlands in its various jurisdictions. When I shoot in England and Wales I cannot use lead shot when shooting at wildfowl. In Scotland and Northern Ireland I cannot use lead shot when shooting over wetlands. My wildfowling club has been known to conduct unannounced inspections of members going out on the marsh to shoot. Those who have lead cartridges in their pockets are expelled from the club. As a result of this compliance with the law on the foreshore is close to 100%.

Compliance inland is patchy. A survey of BASC members showed that a majority complied with the law though a substantial minority did not. Evidence from a small study of mallard bought in butchers across the country found the majority shot with lead. On the face of it, this is bizarre because those who shoot are remarkably law-abiding. They have to be, to secure and keep a firearms licence. What’s gone wrong?

There was no buy in from stakeholders when the law on using lead shot was introduced in 1999, no attempts by government to promote the law and no drive to enforce it. BASC and other shooting organisations run regular campaigns to get the message out, but I still meet people in the field who are unsure or unaware of the current law. The differences between different jurisdictions in the UK don’t help. They muddle the picture and undermine the law. This is a useful warning to those who believe that merely passing a law solves a problem. Overall, it’s my perception that compliance is increasing, and one good outcome of the recent publicity may be to help drive the message home.

Concerns have also been raised by the WWT about lead in game meat – though food safety is hardly their bag. It appears that the WWT is seeking to drown the authorities with a mass of evidence of varying quality and hope that that does the trick in achieving a total ban on lead ammunition. Their leaked campaign documents detailed a campaign to convince the Food Standards Agency that lead shot game is a health hazard and this could be behind the recent advice issued by the Food Standards Authority. How many people hearing the news will realise that the advice was only for those who consume large amounts of game? Nor was there anything new in the science, or any emergency, to suggest that advice should be issued now when a risk assessment is due from the government’s Lead Ammunition Group in a matter of weeks. All this smacks of the “precautionary principle”, the argument people use when they don’t have the evidence to back up their case.

But do we need a general ban on lead ammunition? The jury is still out, but the verdict is imminent. The Lead Ammunition Group was created by the Food Standards Authority and Defra in response to requests from the RSPB and the WWT. Their website lists their terms of reference, members, minutes and the evidence it is reviewing. It brings together stakeholders from all sides of the issue. It has the buy in of the shooting community which should promote support for its recommendations. The Group has reviewed all the relevant science in detail and is currently conducting risk assessments on the effects of lead ammunition on the environment, animal and human health. It should be in a position to issue advice to government next year.

We expect policy to be solidly underpinned by science and not created as a knee-jerk reaction. The Lead Ammunition Group is the place for that work to be done. Because of that, and despite their membership of that group, I’m sorry to see the WWT and others campaign for a ban before the necessary work has been completed. It doesn’t reflect well on organisations which claim to be based on good science. The attempt to start scares through lurid coverage in the media is a blunt campaigning tool that divides the shooting and conservation community. It drives us to opposing positions. This does nothing for the bird populations we all want to see prosper.


52 Replies to “Guest Blog – Christopher Graffius (BASC) Lead Shot”

  1. Christopher, that is really well written with a heartfelt sentiment that I can only agree with. The cooperation of shooting and conservation interests is paramount. As you so rightly say shooting interests contribute an immeasurable amount to conservation, very often in areas where traditional conservation bodies have little presence (eg agricultural land).
    I can go lead free for most of my shooting and have pledged to myself to do so. I do believe that ahead of any findings from the Lead Working Group other shooters should experiment with non lead cartridges. Maybe BASC should run a feature in ‘Shooting and Conservation’.

    Finally I must reiterate my first point. Shooting and Conservation interests should try to stand side by side as far as possible. Apathy is a far greater danger to the environments we all love, we all share common passions and ultimately communication quietly along established lines of communication will bring better results than headline grabbing diktats.

  2. I apologise for my lack of knowledge here but can someone explain why shooters DO use lead shot? I’m guessing there must be some important reason here (important to them) or everyone would have simply switched over? Are the alternatives more expensive?

    1. Sam – here’s a partial answer -I’m sure others can add things to it though. First, history. Lead is quite common and quite easy to mine and quite easy to work with (eg it is malleable) and so it has been used for a range of things over thousands of years. Second, its weight and malleability make it a good metal for killing things. Third, it is cheaper than alternatives but this is partly a self-fulfilling prophecy (if you had to use other shot then their price would come down through increased demand). Fourth, there are some problems using other shot so there is some conservatism in the system – you have to choose how you shoot to adapt to the characteristics of new ammunition and in a few cases there may be problems in using some shotguns with different ammunition.

      As I say, others can correct, add or improve these points. Thanks for asking, it’s important we understand that issue.

    2. The question I had hoped to be answered! Since I have yet to see a good reason for using lead (or any actually), other than that shooters don’t like to be told what to do, surely the simple answer since it causes suffering, is to stop using lead?! Oh wait, shooting, suffering, hmm. Perhaps that point is lost on shooters.

      1. Jo – slightly harsh I think. I am no shooter but I can tolerate shooting if it is usually a ‘clean quick’ kill. I sometimes think in human terms that torture is worse than murder (if the murder is quick!) as it leads to more and prolonged suffering. So the problem I have with shooting is where it causes suffering. Let’s take wildfowling – in the days when lead shot was legal that shot caused suffering through ingestion of spent shot, it potentially caused suffering to people and scavengers and predators who ate lead-contaminated carcasses, and shooting can cause suffering if a bird is ‘winged’ – ie hit and injured but not killed. The argument is that different ammunition requires different shooting techniques (I don’t really understand this but it would include different ranges or perhaps adjusting how you track the moving ‘target’). Changing shot-type might temporarily or permanently change the proportion of injured birds. That clearly is something to take into account. However, since the Danes have removed lead ammunition completely from shooting they must either be more skilful or more callous than our shooters?

  3. Reading Dick Pott’s book seems to suggest Basc is shooting themselves in the foot regarding the removal of predators. I hope the lead does not effect them!!

    1. john – it’s an interesting read isn’t it. My review of it will be in the next issue of Birdwatch.

  4. All this smacks of the “precautionary principle”, the argument people use when they don’t have the evidence to back up their case..

    This doesn’t necessarily mean that the case presented is inaccurate, as this sentence seems (to me) to imply. Many things we use may have effects on ourselves or the wider environment on which we depend, which may not become apparent over the typical lifespan of research projects. This does not mean that those effects may not occur, merely that our research may be conducted over inappropriate timescales. I’m not arguing that one should forever sit on one’s hands and wait for incontrovertible evidence, but there needs to be some recognition that caution is sometimes a good thing. Being ‘precautionary’ comes perhaps from the legacy of problems gifted to our generation by our forefathers.

    It’s an interesting debate, because as you – and Mark – state, there are many broadly coincident aims of both hunting and conservation, yet there seems to be a very wide gap in understanding between the bulk of the two camps.

  5. Christophen Graffius claims that “It isn’t often realised that shooting is about much more than squeezing a trigger. It’s about being in, contributing to and enjoying a rich and diverse environment.”

    Has he been on a red grouse moor recently? Rich and diverse they are not.

    1. They are rich and diverse, they are just different. Heather moorland is an internationally rare habitat, rarer than tropical rainforest. It is recognised as an internationally important habitat.

      Moorland managed for grouse shooting hosts more species and in greater numbers than moorland not managed for grouse shooting.

      And what about pheasant shoots?

  6. I am sure that this is the sort of debate that should be fostered!

    Marks answer on lead shot is essentially spot on (in my opinion), there is little to add. While the lead debate goes on I think that using alternatives should be voluntarily trialled by shooters as I have said before.

    Jeremy’s point of view is interesting, however I think that far from the aims being coincident they are naturally aligned by many common purposes.

    Hugh I totally disagree. Grouse moors very often are not managed in the same way a conservation NGO would manage them however much tree removal etc happens on grouse moors and this can only improve biodiversity. Many farmers plant hedges and woodlands, dig ponds, preserve wetlands etc because of the shooting opportunities that are created. This conservation work is very often small in scale but very widespread. Conservation work like this enormously increases available habitat across the country and is probably as important as flagship conservation projects on fewer sites.

    As previously mentioned by others as well as myself I feel we should try and find ways of all working together. I say this as a shooter and conservationist, a camp where Mr Graffius comes from too I would suggest!

    1. How does tree removal improve biodiversity? Normally the opposite is true there being many more micrro-habitats created allowing a much greater number of species to be found there-in.
      Even in ‘conservation rich’ treeless eg hay-meadows there is probably a lot less total biodiversity, just a more ‘favoured’ community of species due to their rarity.
      I’d hazard a guess that plateau upland scrubby woodland is one of the rarest habitats in the UK as almost all of it has been rmoved for ancient agriculture, sheep and red grouse (and now over grazing by deer due to the lack of sufficient large predators) – who knows what species we don’t see know were dependant on it at one time

    2. Hello Mark,

      As I understand it succession in the UK would normally result in a climax comunity of oak and ash woodland (or perhaps rowan or scots pine woodland on higher ground) which supports our greatest biodiversity. Red grouse moors are an example of deflected succession where the habitat is artificially managed to prevent this natural process to favour one species – red grouse. Visit any grouse moor and you will see lots of red grouse and precious little else. There is some evidence that predator control on moorland can favour black grouse and certain waders, some of which are experiencing declines elsewhere, e.g. golden plover and lapwing, but this seems less an argument for trapping and poisoning mustelids and raptors than a reason to review agricultural practices causing these declines elsewhere. Similarly whilst shooting interests may maintain some woodland on farmland to shelter pheasants they will also typically maintain predator control to maximise the number of these pheasants available to shoot for fun/profit. A healthy ecosystem requires apex predators and indeed natural (as opposed to alien/introduced) predators promote biodiversity (look up the trophic cascade effects in Yellowstone following the reintroduction of the wolf).

      Organisations like BASC trot out the tired old lie that shooting promotes conservation and indeed there is no reason why it shouldn’t if done in an ecologically aware and sustainable way. But the point is that it isn’t. It’s done to maximise shooting opportunities by people who think that being a countryman means killing things. Any conservation benefits accrued are generally accidental and in my view significantly outweighed by the damage done (notice I have only talked about biodiversity – I haven’t even touched on the hydrology and carbon issues surrounding red grouse moors for example).

      I applaud the sentiment of working together but for me that would begin with the shooting community demonstrably cleaning up their house.

      1. “in a climax community of oak and ash woodland …. which supports our greatest biodiversity”

        I’m not convinced that some kind of primeval greenwood really supports our greatest bio diversity not is it completely certain that such a wood covered the UK. There is a view that there was more of a savannah type landscape. With much more of a mix of grasslands and woodlands -indeed in some ways more similar to what we have today in some parts of the country. To me such a continually changing, shifting patchwork landscape would hold more biodiversity than dense woodland.

        One should also remember that whatever state the ecology ended up in it was periodically literally wiped off much of the UK – trees, animals, mankind even the soil right down to the bare rock. So no ‘climax’ was anything other than temporary. Much of the most beautiful parts of the UK are the product of something that it would be hard to see as other than complete environmental catastrophe. For example many of the deep river valleys coming out of Dartmoor were partly formed when its ice covering melted causing massive floods

        1. The use of lead shot to Fran Vera’s hypothesis in less than 14 paragraphs…I think thats why I enjoy reading the comments on this blog so much 🙂

      2. Hugh, I do agree with most of what you say, as I replied to David I was referring to plantations of non native conifer. Many grouse moor owners are at some considerable expense removing 100’s of hactares of conifer. This is in the interests of shooting more grouse however the conservation benefits of this are legion. I dare say this is what the RSPB would do if they owned the same moors.

        I think that ‘the tired old lie’ is a bit strong! I am a conservationist first and a shooter second. For me the hunting instinct is still there much as it is with twitchers (who are also not engaging in conservation per se while following their hobby!)

        I am sure that harnessing the conservation efforts of the shooting fraternity would be a net gain to the environment and would be ‘standing up for nature’.

        Some aspects of shooting are being tidied up and I feel many shooters would be happy to see some change.

        1. Dear Mark,

          I sincerely hope you are right and with more enlightened individuals such as yourself perhaps change can be achieved within the shooting community. Certainly it has to come from within as criticism from “outside” is invariably (and wrongly) dismissed as bunny hugging or mailcious class warfare.

          Perhaps as others have suggested here it could begin with shooting clients seeking clarification on the policies regarding raptor persecution on the estates they frequent or even tipping a gamekeeper when they do see a bird of prey! They could also boycott estates that have seen proven instances of persecution.

          Good luck!

  7. A few points if I may Christopher,
    As one who supports Conservation but not the shooting industry, I find your use of the word Conservation to be at odds with my understanding. Yes you might need to control/kill something to conserve something else but shooting for sport is not conservation. We all know that upland Grouse moors have been laid devoid of competitor species but only to conserve sporting interests.
    Lead is toxic – I don’t think we can argue that point and lead has been removed from other aspects of our lives and environment. So why is the shooting industry so different when we know that lead use, impacts wildfowl, irrespective of them being shot? If I were the owner of a business and I dumped toxic metals into the environment I hope I would be made accountable. The shooting fraternity however in so many cases demonstrate an arrogance to what is legally and morally unacceptable which bring them into conflict with true conservers of nature. In this case, wouldn’t supporting an outright ban on use of lead in shooting in the UK place BASC in a position of stronger leadership & responsibility?
    And lastly, I’m at a loss to see why banning lead is so difficult and contentious in the UK when already in place in other countries. What makes shooting in the UK so different or special Christopher?

    1. Shooting for sport is indeed conservation. Shooters manage more land than all other conservation bodies put together, and they manage it just as well if not better. Of course there are always going to be exceptions to this pattern but the general rule is that shooting benefits conservation.

      Habitat management and predator control (note the word “control”, not “eradication”) carried out on estates benefits many species, including many species which are threatened. Most remaining black grouse are now found on shooting estates, and the strongest grey partridge populations are on shooting estates, some of which can even shoot a small number. Woodland managed for shooting has been shown to contain more birdlife than woods which are not managed for game shooting, and shooting estates have been shown to have more hedgerows than non game areas.

      Gameshooting also makes money, so it pays for itself very well, which is better than using grant money for everything. Grant money is always going to be necessary for some things but it is always a good thing if it can pay for itself. That way, money is less of a constraint.

      Gamekeepers are among the best conservationists this country has.

  8. Firstly, Christopher thank you for being prepared to put your case forward, many of us disagree with you but none the less it all helps in the debates concerning the various issues surrounding shooting and conservation. Actually shooting and conservation are not the same and indeed there are many people on the conservation side of the fence who quite simply cannot, and I mean cannot, understand the mentality of those who shoot, it seems to them totally perverse to kill that which you claim to love!
    Then there is the conservation argument (as I watch a crow pursue a sparrowhawk over the garden, two species the shooting lobby appear to detest) much of what the shooting lobby do indeed aids conservation but, and it is a very big but, that is not its purpose. The purpose is to in some way improve the shooting, conservation benefit is a happy coincidence. There are many things the shooting fraternity do that is quite the opposite, grouse moor management has far more downsides than up in conservation terms, so much so that if all was fair its future would be much less than assured at all levels.
    Then there are all the questions surrounding the release of millions of non-natives into the countryside at high densities and the effects, largely unstudied, this may have on native ecology, good and bad. Given all this I think the jury is still out on the conservation benefits of driven shooting, rough shooting or wildfowling may be different.
    Then there is lead ammunition, you deride the precautionary principle, what is not in doubt is that lead is a toxic, very toxic hence if its use can be avoided it should be, end of argument, other countries seem to have done it why can’t we?
    Why so many sold mallards are shot with lead? Simple they are the product of large shooting estates where a flight of duck comes at the end of a day at pheasants or partridge, nobody changes shot, they are too ignorant or arrogant to obey a law that is largely unpoliced. As a keeper on such an estate said to a colleague “the ducks and geese here are old fashioned they still die when shot with lead.” That is the sad reality of the lead shot ban on wildfowl, why lead ammunition should go and why the idea that shooters are law abiding is almost laughable.

  9. Several points;
    As you say Peter Scott shot wildfowl when he was younger, but he saw the error of his ways and gave up shooting after killing one of a pair of waterfowl and watching the partner fly around in a highly distressed state for a long period of time.

    The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution proposed that in 1983 lead shot in ammunition should be phased out and that was over 30 years ago. Why no action?

    In 2002 several years after the ban on shooting wildfowl with lead shot was introduced , 68% of mallard ducks being sold in game dealers still contained lead shot embedded in their flesh. So in reallity if shooters are not to follow this ban then the ONLY solution is a total ban on the sale of lead shot.

    Lead is found in sufficiently high amounts in our top predators to be life threatening: They consume dead or dying shot birds and also consume the embedded lead pellets.

    Shooting with cartridges containing multiple lead shot will inevitably lead to birds other than the target birds being hit by this shot but not killed outright.

    I have watched shooters targeting geese flying off the solway mudflats and shooting at them when they are way out of range for a clean kill. You can often hear the pellets pinging off the birds feathers. I am sure many pellets are embedded in the birds flesh at the same time.

    Our human population is too large now for shooting to be allowed on the coast. With undisturbed ground becoming scarcer and scarcer, what would happen if everyone decided to take up their rights to go out shooting? It is fortunate that the vast majority of our human population have sufficient compassion not to have this burning desire to kill!! Why not just go out and take some photos instead of causing the death and mutilation of a beautiful bird?

  10. Another point
    Most of the Solway Firth is either a special area of conservation or consists of SSSIs or nature reserves. So how the hell can shooting in these areas be allowed.

  11. Mark, I am sure many of your readers would find the article published in 2010 by Raptor Politics titled ‘The Health Effects of Low Level Exposure to Lead’ very interesting and informative to this ongoing debate. May I also point out that while all other English water utility companies contacted have banned the use of lead shot on their moorland catchments, this practice is still permitted by United Utilities plc in parts of Lancashire. For almost 100 years lead shot has been used to shoot game birds on moorland water catchments now owned by United Utilities in the Forest of Bowland. Throughout this length of time water run off has been used for public consumption throughout many regions of the north west.

  12. I understand that it is illegal to shoot wildfowl using lead shot in England and Wales but that many retailers it seems are quite prepared to sell wildfowl that have been illegally procured in this way. Perhaps we should have a law that gives the retailer the responsibility of ensuring that all wildfowl that he sells are properly sourced; this; I imagine; would be reasonably easy to police with spot checks and the retailer would therefore need to be very careful in ensuring that his produce was legally shot or risk being fined.
    I am assuming no such law already exists.

  13. Well firstly a bit of respect due to Christopher for raising his head above the parapit and not ducking the issue (no pun intended). Recently (last week) the WWT published an article on Birdguides in reference to lead shot. There is an interesting comment on there from a shooter, I know the bloke is a shooter as we’ve in the past had a debate. He was pointing out that it’s only a matter of time before a switch to non-lead shot, however he raises a point that the replacements avaliable are more expensive then lead shot and not as effective. I would like to know if Christopher thinks people will be so willing to change if this is true.
    I do object Christopher you using Peter Scott in your point, as you don’t mention the reason why he stopped shooting wildfowl. On a personal note I also object to you saying someone like myself has alot in common with people who wish to go out and shoot birds, sure I respect the fact some conservation is being done my your members but that is being undone by the shooting communtity that are SLAUGHTERING raptors from Hen Harriers to Golden Eagles on a very regular basis. If the BASC and it’s members were to boycott shoots where these birds are being killed and even perhaps “adopt/sponsor” individual species of raptors I might be able to swallow you “conservation” point more easily.

    1. Gamekeepers who persecute raptors make up a tiny minority of all gamekeepers, and it is by no means universal policy. Also, raptors do thrive on many shooting estates due to abundance of prey.

      Maybe if the RSPB hadn’t gone mental for no obvious reason over the proposed study into non lethal methods of reducing the impact of buzzards, raptor persecution would decline to virtually zero.

      Also, last time I checked, the last case of hen harrier persecution was seven years ago, and harriers were doing very well on shooting estates at that time. There have, however, been reported cases of disturbance from nest monitors – the very people who are there to protect them.

      A small minority of gamekeepers persecute raptors. What about the huge number who do not? Also, most shooters despise those who persecute raptors as it gives gameshooters a bad name, as demonstrated by your comments.

      1. Reece – 1st para – I agree.

        2nd para – that doesn’t make much sense since golden eagles, henharriers and many peregrines had disappeared from most grouse moors ages ago – hardly in reaction to buzzardgate.

        3rd para – I think you mean ‘successful prosecution’ rather than ‘case’. Hen harriers are being bumped off all the time. Some of us would like to see the last resting places of al those hen harriers that were tagged by NE but they are very coy about them.

        4h para – I hope you are right. I don’t see much peer pressure being put on those who are generally known to be ‘at it’. Maybe there is but it isn’t obvious and it doesn’t do much good. Shooting Times, Countryside Alliance etc pretend that no persecution happens and that conservaion organisations make it all up. Start looking like a shooting community trying to get rid of bad apples and you will gain more support and respect – and the tolerance that I believe the good guys deserve.

        Thank you for your clutch of comments. Appreciated.

  14. On lead it seems that unless the shooting lobby stymie the issue it is a matter of when, rather than if it is banned, or at least it should be. That alternatives may or may not be more or less effective may or may not be relevant, I don’t know enough. The idea that non lead may cause more non lethal wounding is a good reason to stop shooting altogether rather than an excuse for the continuing use of lead.
    Terry’s point about lead on catchments, I too was not aware of but I wonder if this is policed, as when I had more to do with shooting, lead was still being used on Yorkshire Water land , although admittedly that was nearly 20 years ago.
    I was once told that shooters were the real conservationists, my answer then was less than polite, until, all raptor persecution, killing of protected mammal predators and lousy habitat management are not only deplored by BASC and the other shooting organisations but that those very organisations start to “shop” , “black ball” and publically name and shame those estates and individuals who do it or encourage it, the words “bollocks or bullshit” still applies.

    1. Very few gamekeepers kill protected species, and what “lousy habitat management” are you referring to?

      BASC do run courses on shoot management, I believe, and they do have a green shoots programme, which is centred around game management and conservation.

      There are always exceptions to the rule, but the general rule is that shooters are indeed among the best conservationists this country has. The words “bollocks” or “bullshit” only apply to a very small minority. It is a shame that this point is not made more clear by the media.

      1. Reece – when you get nature conservationists saying that ‘shooters are indeed among the best conservationists this country has’ then you will know that all is well. How often do you hear that?

      2. Reece as somebody who has bird watched on grouse moors for over forty years I only wish your comments were true. My experience is that the majority persecute raptors and that compared to the guide lines most are over burnt and over drained, Walshaw is a prime but by no means the only example of NE letting them gat away with it. If what you say were true harriers would not be almost lost as English breeders, grouse moor peregrine sites would hold birds that actually bred successfully and short eared owls would be as common now as they were 25 years ago. Your previous entry talked of raptor monitors causing disturbance, sorry that’s just another piece of shoot generated utter tripe used to cover their own illegal acts. THe facts speak for themselves.

  15. David H – Firstly yes I understand your arguments, however I can’t say I agree on some of them. I wanted to flag up your point, “Shooting with cartridges containing multiple lead shot will inevitably lead to birds other than the target birds being hit by this shot but not killed outright.” In all the time I have been shooting not once has this been an issue, due to the fact that with the birds will not be in close enough proximity to each other for the shot to go anywhere near another bird. And the vast majority of shooters know their responsibility to ensure a clean kill by understanding the range limits of their gun!

    And thank you Christopher, very good points that highlight the contributions BASC and the shooting community make to conservation that must encorporate all intrests within the countryside.

  16. Having raised this important health issue with a spokesperson from Yorkshire water two years ago, I was assured the company did not permit the use of lead shot on their water catchments. Wether or not the accumulation of tons of lead shot could affect drinking water over a such a long period I have no idea, but we should always take the cautious approach.

    1. Hi Terry
      I fully support the withdrawal from use of lead shot for shooting birds but I don’t think there is an issue with the use of lead shot in catchment areas creating a risk of lead in our drinking water. By law, drinking water has to be wholesome which means that it must meet recognised standards with respect to various types of contaminants such as micro-organisms and pesticides but also including lead. The public water supply is subject to testing to ensure that these standards are met.

      Whilst, all things being equal, I would prefer not see lead being added to our reservoirs gratuitously, I think that using this as an argument for banning lead shot could potentially be counter-productive as it could be dismissed as ‘scaremongering’ by the shooting lobby. I think a much more convincing argument is based on the impact on birds of ingested lead from spent shot and on the health effects of eating game frequently as these are much harder to dismiss.

  17. Mark,

    Well done to Christopher for being willing to come onto a blog which is not obviously going to applaud his view points.

    Just a few simple basic points that I’d like to make from a practical standpoint from someone involved in small scale game shooting and in slightly larger scale agriculture.

    Firstly on the conservation link with game shooting which is being challenged on this thread. I can only form my opinion based on what I’ve seen on the ground as someone closely involved with landmanagent and arable production on a large range of clients’ holdings. There is undoubtably a clear link between game management and biodiversity in what is actually a totally man made landscape. I’m afraid that this concept that the ecosystem will balance out if intervention is kept to a minimum is wrong. I’ve seen it where clients farm just for crops with wall to wall arable and there’s nothing. Conversely farms where there is even a modicum of game interest retain rough areas and supplementary feed and become islands in a sea of wheat ! I grant that high intensity game shoots are not the best examples though.

    On the reluctance of the shooting interests to adopt non lead shot its quite simple, lead has far superior ballistic qualities and shooting to wound game is a miserable affair and the shooting community is reluctant. I’ve shot with non lead in countries with a lead ban and frankly it was a very depressing experience.

    I realise and respect that a number of contributors to this blog can’t see how any harvesting of game can be remotely compatible with conservation but taking this argument to its extreme all true conservationist should be vegan and they are not. We all make moral and ethical choises in our lives and the fact that mine are different from others does not by definition invalidate either. Livestock farmers love their animals but the tragedy , in the true Greek sense of the word ,is that that love wouldn’t have the chance to exist if they didn’t send them to slaughter, its a grown up world I’m afraid.

    1. Well with the crop failure in this country and the USA etc and cereal based products going up in price and the knock effect, now happening in the USA, of farmers having to send piglets to slaughter too early because they can’t afford the maize to feed them=higher price for pork, some like me earning a low wage might HAVE to become vegan just to afford to eat.
      I would quite happily eat pheasants/partridges but the thought of having to take a metal detector to the dinner table is a bit awkward, never mind the cost 🙂

    2. Julian
      I think you are missing the distinction between those that are not necessarily against farming for meat – and I agree that many will be based upon the life choices they make, and those that feel the urge to shoot birds, some wild and some introduced, merely as a pastime and sport. If Pheasant really are part of the British staple diet, why not rear them in captivity like chickens? It’s killing for fun that I think people find abhorrant, not killing per se. The vegetarian/vegan arguement is often used in this context and I think it just misses the point.

    3. “harvesting of game”

      Are the shot birds which are just left to rot by many intensive shoots included?

      1. Cases of birds being dumped are very rare, and like many things mentioned on this thread, it is only carried out by a small minority. I seem to remember that some cases of birds being dumped have even been attributed to animal rights activists looking to fuel their propaganda. Virtually without exception, all shot game is later eaten.

        1. Animal rights PR my a–e. Its always a small minority Reece so why aren’t the so called minority shopped, named and shamed and otherwise driven out of the so called sport, then and only then will we believe you . Otherwise you’ve probably eaten too much lead shot game!

  18. Perhaps the only way to make shooters stop using lead shot is to make it illegal to sell cartridges with lead in them and make the fine for anyone selling lead shot so large that no one does it.

  19. “It doesn’t reflect well on organisations which claim to be based on good science”.
    What about the chocolate though?

  20. ‘Conservation’ in a shooting context means killing any wildlife that is perceived to undermine the profits of the shooting industry. Lead is a poisonous heavy metal which has been widely banned, yet shooters are allowed to contaminate our rural environment with it. The Precautionary Principle is exactly that – a mechanism to protect us and the environment from destructive self interest and profiteering.

  21. Robin “killing for fun” is a very easy argument to wheel out and on the face of it seems to work. When you think it through however why should someone who eats meat expect someone else to kill so they can eat ? Is their enjoyment one of a moral standpoint in that their consumption is justified because they didn’t “hunt” what they then used ?

    Coop if you read my comment earlier I think I covered your point, don’t judge us all by your campaigning standards.

  22. I include a recent quote from facebook for your amusement. When his/her opinion was challenged, this “custodian of the countryside” came back with the following pearl of wisdom (reproduced verbatim, I swear!)

    “By the way ****, don’t have many foxes on our farm cos we pump the sets full of slurry, and unless you’re a fruitarian who only eats oranges and bananas you’ve got no right to critisise anyone who kills foxes badgers or any other country vermin….Daft cow welcom back to the real world”

    Wonderful, isn’t it?

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