Huffing and puffing in the post

800px-7.5_CartridgesIn response to the call from the Labour Shadow Minister, Alex Cunningham, to get rid of lead ammunition the Countryside Alliance’s Tim Bonner huffs and puffs in the Huffington Post.

In an article wittily called ‘Lead Ammunition – the Facts’ Bonner says very little of note. He says that the issue should be decided on the science but the truth is that the Countryside Alliance cannot take the facts – that is why they walked out of the Lead Ammunition Group in a huff (and puff).  There is plenty of science out there which is why so many scientists of repute are calling for an all-out ban on lead ammunition. There is more science coming along soon too, and we’ll see how the CA tries to avoid the implications of that before Christmas. Watch this space.

Bonner is edging towards accepting that lead is a poison that it is rather foolish to spread around the environment poisoning wildlife and shot into our food – but his progress is leaden.  The facts have been out there for years and years and it is to the shame of the shooting community that they have turned their backs on science for so long and thereby prolonged the exposure of wildlife and people to damaging lead.  The shooting industry’s Game to Eat campaign has promoted the eating of meat which they know contain levels of lead that would be illegal in other foods.  It is a scandal akin to the past behaviour of the tobacco industry and pesticides industries.

Bonner says that the Labour environment team should have listened to both sides of the argument, subtly suggesting that they did not meet those of Bonner’s view. I happen to know that isn’t true. They met, they presumably listened, and then they made their decision on the facts and found Bonner’s arguments and those of the shooting community to be weak and unconvincing. I predict this is going to keep happening quite a lot over the the next few weeks and months.  UK shooting does not have a viable case for retaining toxic lead ammunition.

Bonner moves further than ever before in saying ‘There are those within the UK, however, who are eating sufficient amounts of wild game to be at potential risk (ie. eating a game portion twice a week or more)‘ – in other words he concedes that there is the human health problem that this blog and others have highlighted for years and which the shooting press, shooting industry have attempted to rubbish and disparage.  Welcome to reality Tim!

But Bonner immediately leaps back into the realms of fantasy by ending the sentence ‘these people are also those most likely to handle their game responsibly, hence minimising any risk.’.  How do they do that then Tim? Given that the game on sale in game dealers and supermarkets, sold at the encouragement of the Countryside Alliance and other shooting organisations for years, often has lead levels ten times those legal for other meats and sometimes has levels a hundred times higher, and will very rarely have lead levels a thousand times higher than would be legal for other meats then how does the consumer, whom you are encouraging to eat game, avoid these levels of lead? Just let us know and then tell the supermarkets too so that they can label this lead-heavy food.

Partridge 1d  revised - CopyMaybe Bonner is going to go down the butchering route again (see Lead – mark this quote for later, 11 October and Tim Bonner – butcher that, 30 October) – but if so that’s a lead-lined blind alley. Tim, you keep forgetting to tell us how to butcher the lead out of this partridge without the aid of an X-ray machine in every kitchen. How does the average gamekeeper family avoid high lead levels?

It’s good that the Countryside Alliance are coming out into the open and exposing the paucity of their case.

Here are two areas of Bonner’s article that we will come back to, with the facts, over the next few weeks. He’s so kind to provide these opportunities.

Much is made of the partial reversal of the ban of lead ammunition in Norway. Bonner says that lead is still banned for use in wetlands and for clay shooting in Norway – as it is – that’s for most users. This reversal was achieved by ‘Norwegian Bonners’ – the hunting lobby. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it was sensible – in fact my rule of thumb is that anything the Countryside Alliance says needs checking carefully. Might it not be that Norwegian Bonners pressurised the Norwegian government into making a bad decision? We’ll come back to that fairly soon and to Bonner’s suggestion that ‘What matters is risk management. The idea of a risk assessment is not to eliminate the risk but to reduce it to an acceptable level‘.  Remember that quote! Actually you don’t have to – I’ll remind you of it.

And Bonner, presumably on the basis of shooting some ducks, regards the estimates of dying waterfowl from lead poisoning in the UK each year as ‘nothing more than speculation‘. Remember that quote too. But, again, I’ll remind you of it. But while waiting for that just imagine how the shooting industry can be happy to poison between 10,000 and 100,000 waterfowl a year in the UK. What sort of collateral damage is that? Tens of thousands of poisoned birds?

It is, of course, time to get rid of lead ammunition as Labour’s Alex Cunningham has said.

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7 Replies to “Huffing and puffing in the post”

  1. It has amazed me over the years how the shooting lobby manages to make the absolute worst of its case. I was at our local farmers market this morning. I’ve chatted several times to one stallholder who is selling Venison and Boar meat from the Forest of Dean. Both deer and boar are booming and, if left to themselves, would be a serious threat to the forest and its wildlife. This is lean, healthy meat shot as part of vital land management – literally its only, but serious, flaw is that it contains lead which is so poisonous that over the past 50 years we have eliminated it from everything from paint to petrol – massively more significant actions than changing from lead shot. It is enough to make me think twice – although I know the risk is much lower with a big mammal like a deer or boar, shot with a rifle rather than a shotgun, where only a tiny part of the carcase will be affected – unlike the game birds which no doubt Tim Bonner cares far more about, which as the X rays show can be literally riddled with fragments.

  2. I am glad that Mr Bonner does not run our nuclear licensing organisations. The European Food Safety Authority found when measuring a wide range of food & drink “The highest individual sample maximum of 232,000 μg/kg was found in game meat”. While Mr Bonner is right to say a number of ubiquitous food and drink items give highest contributions to lead exposure over time, any rudimentary risk assessment suggests it would not be sensible to add to that by regularly eating game meat, particularly game birds, that are massively more contaminated with lead according to the EFSA research. To go back to the nuclear analogy, while we are exposed to radiation from all kinds of other sources – some natural and some “man-made” – why increase the risk by eating game birds laced with plutonium twice a week? To compound the disingenuity, the claim is made that eating game is “healthy”. I’ll stick to eating steak or chicken with my game chips to be on the safer side.

  3. The irony is that by defending lead ammunition the Countryside Alliance is throwing away a huge opportunity to promote game shooting as a producer of wholesome free-range food. They are not doing rural food businesses any favours at all by taking a stance that appears to be motivated mainly by bloody-minded obstinacy. If they truly represent the rural economy they should give in gracefully and allow the game meat trade to flourish.

    1. Quite, but is it really about them promoting anything wholesome which might benefit other folk than vested interest?

      Collaboratively they are doing an excellent job, bring on the defra / ministerial response – more twaddle or true colours? All grist or is it medicated grit to the conservation campaign ….

      Certainly doesn’t represent this rural area, most folk I talk to haven’t heard of him so – countryside alliance – unholy alliance more like?

  4. The leadeny of this is that they are failing in their duty of care to their own members. It would only be if someone’s child actually died from lead poisioning that anything would get done and then as a result of government stepping in. Do the shooting industry ask for self regulation????? Are they fit to self regulate???

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