Forest Enterprise England to dump toxic ammunition

By FotoosVanRobin from Netherlands (Venison Steaks) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By FotoosVanRobin from Netherlands (Venison Steaks) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
There is, of course, no need for anyone to wait for a legal ban on lead ammunition, or for Defra to stir themselves – they can just switch themselves. The legal move will sweep up the recalcitrant, the uninformed and the bloody minded and selfish.

For example, the RSPB made the decision to drop lead ammunition for deer culling and predator control back in October 2009.  We (as it was then) were already convinced by the science and had carried out tests of copper bullets for deer culling by RSPB staff in Abernethy Forest where deer were killed to aid habitat recovery.  Since we were selling, or donating, venison into the human food chain we felt it was important on human health grounds alone.

I am pleased to be able to disclose that the Forestry Commission England are making the switch to non-toxic ammunition for deer and boar control by 1 April next year.

Here is, verbatim, what they sent me yesterday:

  • How many deer are culled on the PFE (public forest estate, England)?
    It varies year-to-year but around 13,000 and over 60,000 kilograms of venison and 4,000 kilograms of boar are supplied into the food chain annually as a result of management activity on the estate.
  • Do we, and others who shoot deer on the PFE, use lead?
    Up until this season our Rangers have been using lead ammunition for deer and boar management. Those who operate under a Deer Control Licence or who have retained shooting rights are able to choose their own factory-loaded ammunition.
  • Do we have plans to change?
    Having considered the market for game with our game dealers and the clear evidence on the environmental effects of using lead ammunition we will be adopting non-lead ammunition for the deer and feral boar management undertaken by our Wildlife Rangers.Over the last winter season we have tested various makes and designs of non-lead ammunition, looking at the efficiency of this ammunition across the range of deer species and feral boar managed on the Public Forest Estate. The trials are continuing with the expectation that all our wildlife staff will be using non-lead ammunition for all our deer and feral boar management operations by 1st April 2016.

Good for them – perhaps a good reason to retain forests in public ownership if we can rely on sensible decisions like this.




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7 Replies to “Forest Enterprise England to dump toxic ammunition”

  1. I was involved with RSPB Abernethy in 2009 in the capacity of serving 12 months as a Voluntary Warden at RSPB Insh Marshes. During a morning of deer stalking I was reassured by the talk of a lead-free culling programme.

  2. That’s great news. Well done them, although why didn’t they do it ages ago?

    I hope the people with shooting rights are required to switch too. The bullets will often end up on FE land (i.e. our land) so it’s not unreasonable.

  3. It’s a good start but FE’s statement suggests that the ban only covers the actions of their own Wildlife Rangers and does not extend to deer control licences that FE release to individuals or groups on various areas of the public forest estate. Given that they have accepted the “clear evidence on the environmental effects of using lead ammunition”, shouldn’t the use of non-lead ammunition also be a condition of the licences that FE issue?

  4. Great and every weekend we get 4×4’s ,motorbikes roaring through the forestry at some times of year disturbing nightjar nests and often scaring goshawk and many other rare birds.
    I think they should concentrate efforts in these areas before worrying about the odd lead bullet.
    Pretty typical ill informed and not in touch with what’s happening on the ground

    1. Nigel – do you? Is that what your employers think too, given that you have used their email address?

  5. No where do you give evidence that copper bullets give a clean kill I really doubt it!
    measured in Parts per million lead to soil I doubt 100 grains (a standard 243 bullet) would even register. I doubt if you dredged the land by the battle of the Somme you would even find a serious concern over pollution I guess we will have to change all the church roves as well if these legislators get their way!

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