Shoot a few, poison a few more

800px-7.5_CartridgesBack to another Tim Bonner quote from his blog in the Huffington Post.

I said that I would remind you of what he wrote:

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?

The Oxford Lead Symposium publication today, and the event itself had Bonner deigned to attend, contains a paper by Dr Debbie Pain (WWT), Dr Ruth Cromie (WWT) and Prof Rhys Green (RSPB) on estimates of numbers of waterfowl dying in the UK each year from lead poisoning. They estimate that about 73,000 waterfowl die of lead poisoning through ingested lead in the UK each winter (and so summer losses are additional).

The way they come up with the estimates is a bit complex; quite the opposite of ‘nothing more than speculation’ as Bonner put it. Observed lead ingestion levels by wildfowl are taken and used with known mortality rates for Mallards, measured population levels of waterfowl and various correction rates (one of which I think, if unused, would have reduced the final figure and the other, I think, would have increased it).

To put this in context, about a million ducks are shot in the UK each year. For every 14 shot for sport, another is poisoned unnecessarily.

So, I’d ask again, what sort of sport is it that poisons tens of thousands of its quarry species each winter just because it is  too mean to switch, as have other countries completely, to using non-toxic ammunition?

So, Rory Stewart and Defra – get on with it!  For heaven’s sake what’s the delay about? This is a simple health issue, wildlife and human health, with a very simple solution.

Please sign the Rob Sheldon’s e-petition to ban lead ammunition.


13 Replies to “Shoot a few, poison a few more”

  1. I don’t know Debbie to ask, and its too late now, and he grey lit approach means peer review checks are not as independent as they could be. There is one bias missing I think. And that is the bias of lead poisoned birds turning up at fed WWT reserves. A second potential bias is the calculation does not adequately deal with exposure risks, or whether they have changed as most of this is very out of date. Half the half life of the lead shot in the top layers of mud in most cases.

    All that said, between compliance and the common sense approach to this it is very difficult to defend lead as it is not needed.

    A good point made to me earlier is we need more communication on how non-lead effects uk styles of shooting. We have that info but the story is not being heard over the lound blustering and mutterings


  2. In many ways the most interesting paper in the Report deals with the sociological and political issues preventing the transition to non toxic ammunition. In relation to lead the paper reveals the same primitive attitudes and arguments used by field sports to rationalise all their other illegal and anti social behaviours. They reject the science in favour of anecdote, they attack the competence and integrity of the scientists and those who advocate the science, and they play the victim card in claiming that it is all a conspiracy against shooting. It is so predictable.

    1. I don’t think the RSPB and the WWT are latecomers to this debate. They have been involved in the LAG from the start. Debbie Pain has long been involved in the issue of lead poisoning in birds. Whether or not they are pushing a petition is not the only part of the story and without RSPB and WWT’s involvement the case against the use of lead shot would be far less complete.

      1. Jonathan – without the RSPB and WWT, And Debbie in particular, we would not be on the cusp of a lead ban. Without their continued and public involvement we may be standing in the same place for a long time.

        1. Yes, indeed. Now is the time to increase the pressure to bring the issue to a close but “Supporting finally” is a serious misrepresentation of their involvement to date.

  3. Sorry if I’m being a bit thick here or just missing something but where are these 73000 corpses of dead waterfowl? On my many visits to wetland sites I see very few dead birds (and they seem to be mainly gulls!).
    Btw, I’m not doubting that lead should be banned and have added my name to the petition. I shoot and fish occasionally and as an angler had to give up lead many years ago on grounds of toxicity. I always thought it was ridiculous not to include shooting lead in that ban as well, especially as the amount discharged in one cartridge is about the same as a years worth of my lost angling lead.

    1. Martin – I’ve only ever seen four dead people. Blimey – we must all be living for ever…

      I’ve never seen anyone shoot a duck, that I can remember – can’t really happen can it?

      I’ve never actually seen a Sparrowhawk catch a bird – I’ve seen them eating them or carrying them a few time – but maybe Sparrowahwks are vegetarian. I must tell Songbird Survival – they’ll be pleased and convinced by my observations.

      They are easy prey for all those foxes, crows, raptors, badgers, gulls etc etc they are easy meat – so they disappear quickly. And, it’s a big country! If there were 73,000 dead ducks across the UK sitting there all year there would be one every three square kilometres. If the carcasses last week – seems too long for me – there would be one every c25 square kilometres. If they last just one day then one every c150square kilometres. You mustn’t beat yourself up about having missed them.

  4. Good to see you’re in a chipper mood on this of all days!
    We tend to burn or bury people.
    I have see plenty of duck shot.
    I have seen a sparrowhawk kill a bird.

    1. 73,000 – that order of magnitude takes some grasping but , do you know what – I believe it! It’s no less credible than the fact that only 8 people in my MP’s constituency have signed up to ban lead shot!
      The recent vulture crisis, though further from home, set me thinking that with so many vultures gone – where was all the food to feed that many vultures? Suddenly you realise what a massive job vultures do and how many carcasses they clear up.
      I recall one winter hearing that 26 foxes had died at the hands of the local hunt in the valley. I mourned their loss but when it snowed there were fox foot prints in abundance. That many foxes, on night shift, must have been clearing up sickly lead poisoned birds amongst their nightly takings.
      This week we walked a couple of kilometres of beach in response to a friends concern over 6 dead gannets in 2 km near him. We found an auk, a cormorant and remains of a greater black backed gull. Now if you multiply those findings by the length of UK coastline…
      Just because non of us have been out there and seen a pile of dead wildfowl doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. We just need to be observant and the get our heads around the scale and numbers involved. Yes I believe that order of magnitude.

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