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.
Maybe 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.