M&S – a response

M&Sjpg

This response from M&S at 1653 this afternoon – just so that you know I haven’t been sitting on it.

It seems that M&S are beginning to get their heads around these matters.

No promise to do anything about labelling on the issues surrounding lead. I suggest that either M&S label all their shot game products as follows: ‘May contain lead shot.  Lead is a poison.’ or, perhaps more realistically, that M&S stipulate that they will only accept game shot with non-toxic ammunition and then label ‘May contain non-toxic shot’.

I wonder what proportion of red grouse are shot with non-toxic shot?  Very few I think – what do you shooting experts say?

This reply pushes the issues back to their supplier – Yorkshire Game – and says that M&S complies with the law.  Those don’t sound to me like lengths of which M&S should be ‘incredibly proud’  – they sound like ‘shorts’ to me rather than ‘lengths’.

But at least it’s a start – a rather late start, but a start.  M&S now score 5/10 for customer relations – quite a jump in my estimation of them.

Dear Dr Avery

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding our game sourcing policy. At M&S we are incredibly proud of the lengths we go to in our sourcing policies and our commitment to offer our customers choice.

All M&S game comes from a single game supplier, Yorkshire Game who sources and works closely with selected, known estates across Northern England and the Scottish Borders.  Game management is an integral part of estate and farm management throughout the UK.  It is our requirement that estates operate to the industry’s Code of Good Shooting Practice and the Defra Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Game Birds (www.defra.gov.uk).

With regard to lead shot, there are a number of regulations governing the use and type of shot dependent on the game species and the geographical area of a shoot.  Traditionally shot would have been made of lead but today there are many alternative materials that can be used.  All types of shot, including lead will be used on the estates where our game is sourced.  Whilst every effort is made to remove all shot, due to the nature of the product it may contain shot so we clearly label all game products to alert customers that it ‘may contain shot’.

We work with our supplier to ensure they source from estates which protect and enhance natural habitats for a bio-diverse landscape.  As a minimum, they ensure that all estates comply with legislation. A key success factor in protecting high conservation habitats is ensuring that they are recognised as adding value to rural communities.  This is why we believe that sourcing game from well managed estates is an important contributor to encouraging and supporting a bio-diverse landscape.  We are committed to working closely with these estates to improve estate management as part of our Farming for the Future programme.

  Thanks once again for taking the time to contact us.

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43 Replies to “M&S – a response”

  1. I think I would describe that response as "luke warm" - only thing M&S can be "incredibly proud" of there is perhaps the overuse of PR-speak? But, as you say Mark, it is a start, so well done for getting anything at all out of them.

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  2. Firstly, nothing about harriers, or lack of them; but that might be deeper water than M&S wish to get into!
    Lead shot.......why is any still used at all?
    Fishermen have alternatives and so do shooters! There is so much lead in our environment it will take more than one lifetime to be rid of it, but we have to start sometime. As to may contain......probably may contain nuts too, but it shouldn't!

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    1. Mark W - you can see why they didn't say much then? The more you say, the more you are taken apart. But only if you are on dodgy ground?

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  3. It would be nice to be able to judge whether the "estates ... protect and enhance natural habitats for a bio-diverse landscape ... comply with legislation" and are "well managed". Who's definition of the latter? Any chance of M+S telling which estates?

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  4. Perhaps M&S can provide us with a list of those estates 'which protect and enhance natural habitats for a bio-diverse landscape' and which their supplier uses. We could then have a look at what the breeding populations of hen harrier, red kite, peregrine, raven etc are in these places. I'm sure that there wouldn't be any mysterious gaps in distribution around these estates since they are so committed to encouraging wildlife...

    It's noteworthy that M&S seem to have effectively passed the buck onto a named supplier rather than answering questions directly themselves- would they do this with cheese, or furniture, or lingerie, or would they take ownership themselves and accept that they are responsible for what they sell, and answer accordingly? Or have they jumped into selling an 'aspirational' product without fully understanding what they might have gotten themselves into?

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  5. Big pity that M&S could not see a positive marketing spin in advertising their grouse as shot on a moor that has XX number of breeding Hen Harriers etc. Saying they comply with varies rules/regs and laws is no longer sufficient - most land owners couldn't give a toss about these.

    Why is it that replies from organisations and politicians make you feel as if you were still in primary school. Common courtesy suggests the reply should be in tune with the enquiry or comment, and if this is informed and intelligent, why cannot the answer be the same.

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    1. I couldn't agree more Stella. "saying they comply with varies rules/regs and laws is no longer sufficient – most land owners couldn’t give a toss about these". Up in Orkney we are seeing the ploughing up of natural wet grasslands, increased heather moorland grazing and some wetland in-filling. I have reported this to the local Rural Payments Office as it doesn't comply with Cross Compliance payments. All they have done is give the famers a nod, not to do it again and they have lost nothing. The background message from above seems to be, food security, greater productivity required = more profit. I am following up on my complaints but doubt much will change.....

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  6. Work your way back up the food/ supply chain . See yorkshiregame.co.uk . If they cannot provide evidence that their suppliers ( the estates) live up to their claims they are in breach of trade descriptions. That means identify individual estates. And you can bet they won't want to lose a contract to supply M & S - equally, M & S won't want to be found that they have not checked out their suppliers claims ( that was the root problem over horse meat. M & S are happy to identify & name which farm produces their potatoes so they should have no problems with grouse.

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  7. The code says that "Shoot managers must ensure that they comply with all relevant legal requirements set out in part 9 of this Code." (Interalia the Wildlife & Countryside Act).

    So the question for M&S and their suppliers is how do they verify that their "requirements" are being followed?

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  8. When an organisation contracts waste disposal to a waste management company, they cannot simply pass all responsibility for disposal to that company. They still have to take reasonable steps to ensure that their waste is being dealt with according to legislation. It is only reasonable to expect the same of M&S. I feel this a story that will run for a long time., and they are bound to be embarrassed by those with whom they do business.

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  9. I am still not clear how M&S get the meat past FSA requirements given lead is thought to have been a major factor in lowering longevity pre-20th Century and for a few decades in. I am sure that if I grew vegetables in my garden with the chance of lead shot in them, I would not have a chance of getting my products into ASDA, Tesco and (definitely not) Co-Op stores. Not a good advocate for buying local either a la Rick Stein's (et al) advice. On a day when GCSE results have been released, I would give the reply a C and that is mostly for trying (a Fail would have been not to reply). Again well done to Mark for bringing this to our attention, it has certainly got my attention. Apologies for going slightly off-piste but if you think about it, this fits into the local agenda currently being promoted by the BBC, RSPB and certainly the Wildlife Trusts.

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    1. Ian - game seems to have escaped much meaningful regulation. Someone, somewhere, has thought that it 'must be OK because it's natural' I guess.

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  10. Let's not beat about the bush, whilst DEFRA and others have not generally admitted the facts, it is largely shooting estates in Yorkshire who comprise the "black hole" where harriers have disappeared in the past. Until such time that real transparency exists surrounding the results from sat tagged harriers and these details are released by DEFRA, all game sourced from Yorkshire must be treated with caution.

    M&S are conveniently avoiding the moral aspect surrounding their making grouse available. With the current levels of proven raptor persecution being associated with upland shooting estates any support being provided to that industry is questionable. I would suspect a lot of M & S's traditional customer base wouldn't feel comfortable with the connection.

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    1. John - thanks v much! You may not notice, because I don't think you 'do' Twitter do you, but Chris Packham has given your epetition on licensing grouse moors a boost by ReTweeting it this morning. Numbers ticking over a bit quicker today as a result. Here is the link for those who would also like to sign http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46473

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      1. Up 210 from when I first signed! That's 0.021% of the million voices for nature and Martin Harper has still not published my latest post differentiating John's ePetition from the rspb Vicarious Liability initiative on his "We're not giving up" blog: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2013/08/16/we-39-re-not-giving-up.aspx

        If they don't want to unleash the million voices at least explain why.

        More encouragingly my local BTO rep has promised to include a plug for it in his next newsletter. However, still nothing visible from my earstwhile friends at the local ornithological society.

        We begin to see another root cause of the State of Nature report! Hen Harriers come a poor second(?) to other considerations clearly.

        Mark, I disagreed with you on the "Natures Home - Yuk" blog but this is a marvellous effort. You ask for more involvement from "ordinary" birders - so here goes:

        On the YouTube page hosting Yann Arthus-Bertrand's superb film "Home" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxENMKaeCU

        the opening text goes:

        "We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth's climate.

        The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being."

        That was in 2009 !!! These scientists, they must be pulling the wool over our eyes 'cos the powers that be clearly don't believe them and that includes the environmental NGOs, Green Party, Forum for the Future, NEF etc because they'd be in our faces, Farage style, if the threat were real surely??

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        1. re the last para above, these guys do have compelling stories to tell it just that us ordinary people have to go digging to find them!

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  11. Writing as a potential consumer of finger-lickin' (but potentially pencil-droopin') game, it would be nice to see a list of 'lead-free' shoots. I wonder what happens to all that lead which is removed from the M & S game (birds). I wonder how much lead is scattered across the landscape each year and how much of this is down to M&S's suppliers. Guesstimates should be fairly easy to calculate. We could institute a Carson scale for estate toxicity.

    Of course, dead fowl are but a by-product of shooting. Perhaps it is all those footballers, industrial big-wigs, corporate hospitality companies et al that need to be educated in order to bring pressure on the estates.

    I wonder if there's a GIS map of UK shooting estates yet (Should be fairly easy to knock one up)? Information from the National Biodiversity Network Gateway and local biological/environmental record centres would then provide a useful way to appraise the biodiversity and conservation value of each (and compare figures with other managed or semi-demi natural habitats).

    Just think, M&S could not only tell you (roughly) how toxic the land was from which your punctured poultry came but how its production was contributing to 'giving nature a home' (TM). Such information might justify 'moor significant' Stewardship payments for conservation not just of the M&S landscape but the landscape as a whole, with lots of extra money for having successfully breeding hen harriers for example.

    But, despite being capitally-challenged these days, perhaps all those rspb followers could put their money where there mouth is and each sponsor a red grouse. You'd get a regular update as to how "Tilly" or "Lago" or "Fred 3389" were doing and a bonus prize if they ended up (partially) in a raptor's belly. Perhaps the Society can supply netted birds to Sainsbury's for their "Taste the Difference (Never mind the fact it's less tasty than a good free range organic chicken it's almost as lead free)" range.

    The local food agenda doesn't really work with 'luxury' items but it would certainly be a good thing to encourage local butchers all over GB to make a point of stocking lead-free game. Given that those millions of fisherman gave up making swans necks go floppy despite it being an established part of their heritage, it would seem a small thing to ask those within the shooting community who have yet to see the light to make the change too.

    Perhaps the 'greenest government ever' (Has the meaning of each of those words been updated by the OED to take account of just how far they've been stretched in recent years?), will introduce a bill to reflect its deep concern for (how it portrays itself in relation to) the natural environment? Perhaps a ban might come into existence before that one for peat. You know, the one that will stop your grandchildren from using it.

    Let's hope that no-one lets slip just how efficient the use of lead could make the fracking process. Oh, poot!

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    1. "I wonder if there’s a GIS map of UK shooting estates yet (Should be fairly easy to knock one up)?"

      I'm a dab hand with DMAP ! But then again it should be easy to cross reference Hen Harrier maps with shooting estates in the forthcoming BTO National Atlas? Or maybe it does not go down to the detail (Tetrad level) I used on two county Atlases? If not if somebody gives me the raw data I'll produce the maps (he says knowing full well I won't be taken up on it)!

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      1. Well if Mark tweets-up your generous offer Phil, you might well end up with offers to provide the necessary....

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        1. I'm not holding my breath. I offered my time a few years ago (at a game fair !!!) all free of charge but nothing came of it, other than requests to write to my MP from time to time! Strange that but maybe not!!

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          1. You're may well be right, Phil but perhaps starting with Yorkshire - whence the M&S provisions originate- and finding some mustachioed birder to publicise the request about shooting estates there might be a good starting point.

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  12. Summer 2013 edition of Birds Magazine and Simon Barnes writes about "Joined-up thinking" in his excellent State of Nature article. "Members of ........the RSPB, the British Bryological Society, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, birds, bryophytes, dragonflies, beetles, bats and humans: we're all in it together". Quite.

    Today, a letter arrives from Steven Roddy, RSPB Head of Parlimentary Campaigns asking me to write to my MEP regarding the perils of current biofuel policy in which he states at the end: "Thank you for your support, together we can really make a difference"

    Also today the RSPB August eNewsletter arrives which talks about recent topics but excludes "Bowland Betty" and John Squire Armitage's ePetition that I and quite a few others, 6147 now currently, think will carry way more bite than the RSPB's Vicarious Liability initiative.

    To be fair the timings might have been against inclusion of a plug for the ePetition but I do find it hard to understand why my constant pestering for the organisation to get behind Mr Armitage's initiative is being suppressed on the Martin Harper blog. Does Simon (Barnes) and Steven (Roddy) feel as let down as I do?

    I know I'm a bad boy for being so impatient and outspoken but I really do care about nature and wildlife and the future of the planet and by definition mankind itself. I do take all of the environmental rhetoric surrounding environmental matters literally. And I will write my MEP despite this violation of co-operation theory.

    Could somebody please explain to me/us what the problem is in opening the flood gates on the ePetition? If the Royal Charter is an impediment to solving these problems then the value systems are wrong. No use Prince George inheriting rule over a planet that just contains humans!!

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    1. So just as I hit the Tit on my latest wittering, I'm flooded by notification emails from BirdGuides pointing to new revelations. http://www.birdguides.com/webzine/article.asp?comments=y&a=3900

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  13. I got the following response by sending a link to Mark's blog:

    Dear Mr Pennington

    Thank you for emailing Steve Rowe to share your concerns about the introduction of grouse into some of our stores. As a member of his personal team, I’m replying on his behalf.

    We have the highest standards of animal welfare and only source from suppliers we know and trust. Our game range is sourced from well-managed estates across the UK stretching from Nottinghamshire to the Scottish borders, with the majority of product coming from Yorkshire and Northumberland.

    Game is one of the most animal welfare friendly meats you can eat as it is totally free range – the birds live totally in the wild and in their natural habitats. It is also a very sustainable option and good estate management and conservation intended for game shooting actually stops deforestation, and encourages the protection of the countryside.

    There are no breeding pairs of hen harriers on the grouse moors we take from and there are severe penalties for anyone that interferes with Hen Harriers - this is actively enforced not just for Hen Harriers but all species of raptors.

    I appreciate you taking the time to get in touch with us to raise your concerns about the sale of grouse in our stores. I hope my email has helped to reassure you of how seriously we take our commitments to the environment and ethical sourcing.

    Kind regards

    Simon Hoskins
    Executive Office

    I then replied:

    On 21/08/2013 13:48, Chairman at Marks & Spencer wrote: There are no breeding pairs of hen harriers on the grouse moors we take from

    I think that's one of the points being made. The decline of the Hen Harrier is linked to the (mis)management of grouse moors.

    And got the following fob-off.

    Dear Mr Pennington

    Thank you for your email. I appreciate that you remain concerned.

    We want to provide clarity on our policies that you have queried. At M&S we are incredibly proud of the lengths we go to in our sourcing policies and our commitment to offer our customers choice.

    We work with our supplier to ensure that they source from estates which protect and enhance natural habitats for a bio-diverse landscape. As a minimum they ensure that all estates comply with legislation. A key success factor in protecting high conservation habitats is ensuring that they are recognised as adding value to rural communities. This is why we believe that sourcing game from well managed estates is an important contributor to encouraging and supporting a bio-diverse landscape. We are committed to work closely with these estates to improve estate management as part of our Farming for the Future programme.

    Furthermore, we believe that game management is an integral part of estate and farm management throughout the UK. It is our requirement that estates operate to the industry’s Code of Good Shooting Practice and the Defra Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Game Birds (www.defra.gov.uk).

    Thanks once again for taking the time to contact us. I hope I have helped to reassure you of our ethical standards regarding the introduction of grouse to our stores.

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  14. With such a vast amount of comment on the M&S grouse story I'm not sure I could've added to the debate. However, I did see the (rather superb) Mark Thomas at a music festival recently and his current show, '100 acts of minor descent' strikes me as a way to make a direct protest against M&S. Who knows M Thomas may even be up for it - have your thought about contacting him? A sticker campaign featuring a hen harrier with lead shot across it and a short message for good measure whacked on the nicely wrapped red grouse carcass may help M&S think about things a little more.

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  15. Mark,

    Thanks for bringing this issue out for debate. Below you will see the exchange of correspondence that I have had with M&S. You will notice some similarities.

    I would welcome any thoughts and advice on what seems to me a contradiction between the Defra code and wildlife protection legislation. I assume if and when tested in a court, the wildlife protection legislation would come up trumps.

    Also, does the DEFRA code actually apply, as it seems to be directed at birds that at reared to be shot, ie pheasants, partridge, etc.. Does it actually cover wild birds such as grouse (even if their wildness is heavily managed), grouse are not reared..

    Ay advice welcome.

    Ian

    Dear Simon,

    Thank you for your response. I find the response disappointing in that I was hoping for an express commitment to upholding the spirit and the letter of wildlife legislation, first and foremost and hence the health, welfare and recovery of birds such as Hen Harrier.

    Hen Harrier and other birds of Prey are protected under wildlife legislation, however, the unhelpful language of the Game birds code talks about "predators" in generic terms and hence could be seen as being at odds with wildlife legislation.

    Making it clear that you expect your suppliers to uphold the spirit and the letter of wildlife legislation would be a step forward; simple adherence to the codes is not.

    I look forward to your clarification.

    Ian Baker

    On 23 Aug 2013, at 11:38, Chairman at Marks & Spencer wrote:

    Dear Mr Baker

    Thank you taking the time to contact us regarding our game sourcing policy.

    We want to provide clarity on our policies that you have queried. At M&S we are incredibly proud of the lengths we go to in our sourcing policies and our commitment to offer our customers choice.

    All M&S game comes from a single game supplier, Yorkshire Game who sources and works closely with selected, known estates across Northern England and the Scottish Borders.

    Game management is an integral part of estate and farm management throughout the UK. It is our requirement that estates operate to the industry’s Code of Good Shooting Practice and the Defra Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Game Birds (www.defra.gov.uk).

    We work with our supplier to ensure that they source from estates which protect and enhance natural habitats for a bio-diverse landscape. As a minimum they ensure that all estates comply with legislation. A key success factor in protecting high conservation habitats is ensuring that they are recognised as adding value to rural communities. This is why we believe that sourcing game from well managed estates is an important contributor to encouraging and supporting a bio-diverse landscape. We are committed to work closely with these estates to improve estate management as part of our Farming for the Future programme.

    Thanks once again for taking the time to contact us.

    Kind regards

    Simon Hoskins
    Executive Office

    ( Tel: 0845 3021234
    : Website: www.marksandspencer.com
    › Address: Executive Customer Services,
    Chester Business Park,
    Wrexham Road
    Chester,
    CH4 9GA
    P Consider the environment - do you really need to print this email?

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Ian Baker [mailto:ianbaker4@googlemail.com]
    Sent: 21 August 2013 21:27
    To: Retail Customer Services
    Subject: Hen Harriers and Grouse

    To whom it may concern,

    I am writing to welcome the fact that M&S have started to stock grouse, as I believe it could help to improve practice on the grouse moors. I understand that you have released a statement to the effect that none of the the moors from which you source your product have breeding Hen Harriers; I am sure you are aware of the reason for this.

    I would encourage you to bring in a policy that where any estate staff have a conviction for any sort of wildlife crime that you should cease to source your product from them with immediate effect. The clear effect of this policy would be to discourage estates from engaging in persecution of HenHarriers and any other predators. There is plenty of well founded scientifically sound advice out there on how to divert predators away from game birds and I would encourage you to promote dialogue with Game Conservancy and RSPB to assist in the education process that is badly needed.

    Best,

    Ian Baker

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  16. "I wonder what proportion of red grouse are shot with non-toxic shot? Very few I think – what do you shooting experts say?"

    I'm sure you're right Mark. And I for one will continue to do so until told otherwise. At the risk of prejudging the findings of the LAG I regard your scare stories about lead shot on grouse moors as completely irrelevant and just another example of your drip-drip process of attrition against a sport about which you have developed a deep and disagreeable prejudice.

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    1. Lazywell - if you had young children at your place for lunch/dinner, would you offer them lead-shot grouse, pheasant, partridge, rabbit, wood pigeon after the FSA advice? Serious questions. Just so tht you can remember what that advice was, here are a couple of extracts:

      The Food Standards Agency is advising people that eating lead-shot game on a frequent basis can expose them to potentially harmful levels of lead. The FSA’s advice is that frequent consumers of lead-shot game should eat less of this type of meat.

      To minimise the risk of lead intake, people who frequently eat lead-shot game, particularly small game, should cut down their consumption. This advice is especially important for vulnerable groups such as toddlers and children, pregnant women and women trying for a baby, as exposure to lead can harm the developing brain and nervous system.

      and the link http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2012/oct/lead-shot#.UhkTOX9QB1F

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      1. Late at night, so you must take me as you find me as you are good enough to do generally.

        I am aware of the science you trot out regularly, and the FSA's carefully worded warnings.

        The answer is I would have no hesitation whatsoever in providing a party staying with me with any kind of game, including grouse if we're lucky enough to shoot any. Indeed, we had some the night before last - delicious. No kiddies, admittedly, but they tend not to like the strong gamey taste anyway. Not sure my wife likes it much either. But that's got nothing to do with lead, medicated grit, direct dosing or any other spurious factor you trot out in support of your tendentious argument.

        I wouldn't want to eat it every night; so I feel quite safe thank you very much.

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        1. Lazywell - I take it that you would have qualms about feeding game to children (and pregnant women) then?

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  17. No, for the avoidance of doubt, I'd have no qualms about either if they wanted it. But as I say, I wouldn't give it to them day after day after day.

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  18. To shop at M&S in Salisbury I have to find somewhere to park first and having accomplished that I may as well go to Pritchett's in Fish Row. I like to look in their window while Mrs C is buying organic cocoa nibs from the nearby deli, until she drags me away weeping. Anyway, M&S never have anything big enough.

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    1. filbert - are you boasting or seeking our sympathy? Or were you referring somewhat ungallantly to your better half - surely not?

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  19. Please ask M&S what they understand of the practice of direct dosing of red grouse. Ask them whether all of the game estates which supply M&S have assured them that they do not direct dose red grouse with chemicals which are not allowed to be applied to domestic livestock destined for the human food chain. Ask M&S whether they are assured by the way in which game meats are except from chemical analysis/testing and a suite of other regs required by the FSE and HSE for commercial agriculturally reared meats. Ask them whether the game estates concerned use registered vets as and how they are legally required when applying chemicals to populations of wild birds. Ask M&S to publish the amount of carbon that they calculate is associated with the mgt of the given moorlands in order to rear one red grouse upon these most commercial of grouse moors. Ask M&S to inform you of the chemicals the red grouse ingest in the form of medicated grit and to assure you of the affect these chemicals have upon human health.

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