How will LAG cope?

The reported resignation of Barnie White-Spunner from the Lead Ammunition Group marks a tactical retreat of the military man from a battle he could never win.

The evidence for human and wildlife harm from lead poisoning is pretty much incontrovertible and so it was always going to be a rearguard action. It is rumoured that his ally, the GWCT’s Ian Coghill, fled the field months ago but he may just be sulking.

Neither old warrior had been given the appropriate kit to defend themselves from the rain of incoming evidence that assailed their indefensible positions – a knowledge of chemistry or ecology would have been a useful weapon but they appeared to be unarmed.

Their tactical withdrawal is just that. When the Lead Ammunition Group report is published it will, it is expected, make a clear case for phasing out lead ammunition because of its harmful impacts and because there are perfectly safe alternatives (as other countries have discovered and pioneered).

The shooters can’t admit that they were wrong all along, and it’s terribly embarrassing for them that they have known of the harmful impacts of lead for well over five years, and so they have to kick up a stink. I think that what stinks is the lack of honesty of shooters over lead for many years. They should be ashamed of themselves – and that includes GWCT, BASC, the Moorland Association and the Countryside Alliance. And also the Shooting Times and The Field, come to think of it.

With the lack of White-Spunner, and Coghill Missing in Action, what great brain could step in to box the ears of the townie scientists with sheer countryman’s common sense? Only one man has the proven track record – it must be Ian Botham.

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13 Replies to “How will LAG cope?”

  1. Its all a bit bonkers. That aside - anyone able -yet- to address the questions raised in his resignation letter. Specifically the one about a second risks to wildlife report being commissioned? I didn't get why one would be commissioned from either "side" of that debate and not try to stay neutral? Perhaps LAG will respond in public in due course. It is sad to see so many make uninformed and poor judgments about the integrity of JS - while I remain relatively unconvinced that all lead needs to be banned when used sparingly - i.e. not in big shoots kind of ways - I cant see john coming to such a conclusion lightly.

    1. Tom - I was on this group originally. The shooters have played a very predictable game - make everything take forever and then bale out at the end.

  2. What a strange world we live in ! Lead is really quite nasty - in fact so nasty that research has suggested that the removal of lead from petrol resulted in a greater decrease in violence than every other measure put together - a finding probably under reported because there were so many vested interests (probably including crime fighters !) it didn't suit. But it is clearly crazy to go on pumping lead into the environment, or in fact using it other than in forms and conditions where it cannot ever become a human toxin.

    Whilst Sir Barnie'e position is hard to see as anything other than irresponsible, at a time when the shooting fraternity are doing themselves so much harm it is once again worth giving credit to John Swift as the face of responsible shooting - taking on this task is both courageous and onerous and shows what the best end of shooting can do.

  3. I fear Sir Ian is showing all the signs of too much lead ingestion already! I love the line at the end about counsulting the rest of the shooting community on the best way forward. Unfortunately, they missed that opportunity several years back when they should have started a voluntary phase out of this toxic metal. Lead shot should be banned and banned now.

  4. Talking to a shooter about lead, I was told the reason why the shooting fraternity are so reluctant to phase it out, was because they would not be able to continue to use their cherished old, even heirloom guns, which would be irreparably damaged by leadless ammo.

    If this is true, it would explain the rearguard action, in the face of overwhelming evidence for human and ecological impacts, as pure emotional attachment to weapons, which become imbued with additional meaning and value over the years, especially those handed down through families.

    I suspect this is something that extends far back into our palaeolithic roots; and as an emotional issue it might require a different approach from the scientific arguments, which are now all resolved.

    1. Miles - funnily enough, that isn't news to those of us who have worked in this area for decades. And it's something that effects a minute proportion of shotguns - mostly those used by a small proportion of people to shoot grouse. It's irrelevant for the vast majority of pheasant, partridge, wildfowl, pigeon, rabbit etc shooters.

      Think 'Lock, stock and two smoking barrels'.

      If you have a pair of Purdeys worth maybe £40,000 then you might have to spend a few hundred quid to get them modified so that they can shoot lead.
      It's a niche excuse, not a good reason. Go back to your informant and ask how many people would be affected. And while you are at it, ask what reason he would suggest for the high level of non-compliance in sticking to the more than a decade old ban on using lead to shoot waterfowl in England and Wales.

  5. The points raised in BW-S's resignation letter do need to be answered. It doesn't matter what one's personal position is on shooting - one cannot ban something if there is even the slightest suspicion that the science is being gerrymandered. All things come with risks: alcohol and saturated fat are far riskier to the human population than lead shot, for example. The question is at what point those risks pose a serious danger to wildlife and to human health, and as to how that risk is mitigated. It has been well established in many countries that lead shot is harmful in a wetland environment; it has not been so well established that occasional or even frequent ingestion of game meat, that may or may not have lead shot in it, is harmful. This needs nailing down, not by lynch mob tactics or armchair science, but by proper cooperation and (medical) professional review of peer-reviewed studies. One can disagree with BW-S on a lot of things - and one can disagree fundamentally with him on whether shooting is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing - but he makes some valid points. And they need answering, whatever one's personal opinion of his motives for making them.

    1. John - you'd better read the science in the report then. When it's published. You could read it now, as it is in the public domain (like science is). The case is pretty overwhelming, in my opinion (and having read much of it myself). No doubt that is why others across the world have already banned lead ammunition and why at an international conference last autumn governments, including ours, voted to phase out lead ammunition.

      1. Well, Norway seems to be kicking that trend!!. I've been reading the output of LAG since they formed, and whilst I don't have a doctorate like you Mark; I do have a Masters degree, and a little knowledge of statistics; and I have to say that I was concerned from the start on how 'evidence' was selected and presented etc. I did canvas John Swift for a simple test comparison of two populations regarding exposure to lead; and the organisations of the BASC and the RSPB are large enough to provide meaningful data for that....but it wasn't even acknowledged. There is still a large part of our population drinking water from lead supply piping but I don't see the WWT and others hell bent on sorting that out. You might well say that the shooting elements of LAG have acted in a strategic way; but from my reading of the subject matter I can only conclude that their role was anything but inclusive from day one.

  6. So John, if somebody, perhaps even a vested interest, hints that "the science is gerrymandered" health protective action cannot be contemplated? If there is a bigger health risk the smaller one in our own back yard should not be addressed? If the wetland risks are well established in many countries, confirmed but more localised and less researched risks e.g. to wildlife outside wetlands and to human (children) health, should not count for much? And although more than 30 years has elapsed since the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution report gave its opinion; and LAG has been five years in the oven; are you suggesting that it should now all be done again but this time by "proper cooperation and (medical) peer reviewed studies"?

  7. Now I'm no genius, but as someone that used to work with lead, the health & safety protocols that we had to follow when working with & handling lead, particularly around public spaces, were numerous. Any placement of lead in any environment where it doesn't naturally occur has to be a bad thing, and if all it takes to stop it is for a few people to change their practices, well, it's not rocket science is it?


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