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.