Taking lead off the map

There are two e-petitions relating to toxic lead ammunition. At the moment the one asking for a continuation of our birds being poisoned and our food being adulterated with lead has more signatures so please sign Rob Sheldon’s e-petition to replace toxic lead ammunition with non-toxic alternatives.

I find the relatively new Westminster parliament website for these e-petitions fascinating, particularly because you can now look at maps of where the signatures come from (and find easily, the number of signatures for each constituency).

This is the map for Rob’s e-petition to ban toxic lead ammunition:

nontoxic1It is very clear what is happening here.  Several of the hotspots on this map are clustered around WWT centres: Slimbridge, Arundel, Martin Mere and Caerlaverock. Because WWT has asked its supporters to sign this e-petition they have! There is also a hotspot in the Beds/Cambs region which I would guess is partly because of the Welney effect, partly because Cambridge is full of wildlife organisations and partly because RSPB staff based at Sandy (but living scattered around the area) have signed up in numbers.

I don’t know whether you can spot anything else interesting here but I am beginning to think that I ought to move to Derbyshire as that has a pretty go-ahead Wildlife Trust and always seems to produce lots of signatures for environmental e-petitions.

Let us now turn to the ‘keep toxic ammunition’ map:

toxic1This is interesting too. Two of the constituencies with the highest support for toxic ammunition are Richmond (Yorks) and The Cotswolds whose MPs spoke in the Westminster Hall debate on toxic ammunition last week.

Can you spot anything else interesting here?

Given that we know that the supporters of the ban driven grouse shooting e-petition are mostly rural voters living in Conservative constituencies (with good showing of LibDems and Green voters – see here, here, here and here) I thought it would be interesting to look at the London constituencies for these two competing e-petitions.

Here is the map for ‘ban toxic lead ammunition’:


The hotspot here is centred around another WWT centre – the Barnes Wetland Centre in Zac Goldsmith’s Richmond Park constituency and surrounding constituencies.

In contrast, the ‘keep the toxic ammunition’ e-petition looks like this:


That’s really quite different. Chelsea and Fulham has, by far, the highest number of signatures of any constituency in the UK (288!) with neighbouring constituencies of Westminster, Kensington and Battersea being very supportive too. It’s a slightly unexpected pattern – at least that’s what I thought.  What do you think?

Well done to WWT for, quite visibly, mobilising some of your members. Keep at it please and we’ll see those numbers going up steadily over the next few weeks. I wonder what the RSPB has up its sleeve to mobilise its members to this cause that it supports too?

Wherever you live, please do sign Rob Sheldon’s e-petition to ban toxic lead ammunition and to replace it with the safer alternatives that are widely used by shooters elsewhere.  Perhaps today we can get it past the 7000-signature milestone.





22 Replies to “Taking lead off the map”

  1. “Chelsea and Fulham has, by far, the highest number of signatures of any constituency in the UK (288!) with neighbouring constituencies of Westminster, Kensington and Battersea being very supportive too. It’s a slightly unexpected pattern – at least that’s what I thought. What do you think?”

    Perhaps it is no coincidence that these constituencies are a short distance from Mayfair – and in Mayfair there is both James Purdy & Sons and Holland & Holland – makers of bespoke shotguns…Driven grouse shooting is expensive – as are bespoke shotguns.

  2. You’d be very welcome in Derbyshire Mark and of course our moors are stuffed full of hen harriers, peregrines and goshawks as you know….

    1. Yes come to Derbyshire, we need you. Met my old enemy again today, who remarked that my precious George Mumblesomething and his f ing beavers would not be a great deal of use in respect to Cumbria flooding, there being no fish up on the fells…

      There were so many things I wished I had said afterwards but at the time I was mostly silent and staggering a bit in the mud.

      You should have been there. We need educating.

  3. I was discussing this issue with a shooter at the weekend. According to him, one of the barriers in the shooting fraternity is the perception that non-lead shot damages the barrel of the shot gun. If you have paid £10k + for your shotgun, this is potentially a significant concern.

    1. Peter, thank you for that. I have asked twice on this site for someone to give me a reason for NOT banning lead shot, I wonder why nobody on the shooting side bothered to answer. You do however use the word ‘perception’. So this leads to the question, does steel shot defininatly damage gun barrels, or do they only ‘think’ it does?

      1. If a shotgun cannot have its barrel(s) replaced it is a serious design fault. And as it’s only a lump of metal it should not be that expensive. Could it be that the engraving and the chequering and decorative blueing and the gold thread embroidery on the Crepe de Chine gun bag is what makes this stuff so pricey? I could bling up my .22 underlever but I would get grief from Mrs C along the lines of “How much is that per rat, now?” and the rats don’t care because they will be dead.

        1. Thanks very much for that Bushshrike. Nice to have it in black and white, alternatives to lead shot are just as lethal.

    2. “If you have paid £10k + for your shotgun, this is potentially a significant concern”

      True but many (most) shotguns in use will have cost substantially less than this. I believe that non-toxic ammunition is not necessarily damaging to gun-barrels either. There are gun barrels available that are suitable for use with steel shot and there are various different non-toxic shot types available which, depending on the material used, have different pros and cons in terms of potential barrel damage, ballistic performance and cost.

      The shooting organisations have not, as far as I know, suggested that the practice of shooting wildfowl is a dead duck (sorry, couldn’t resist!) due to the obligation to use non-toxic ammunition and – in principle – they all are on record as committed to ensuring their members avoid the use of lead shot wherever there is a risk of it being deposited into wetland areas used by feeding waterfowl (see e.g. http://www.gwct.org.uk/policy/position-statements/compliance-with-the-law-on-the-use-of-non-lead-ammunition/). If they believe that duck shooting (or shooting other quarry in areas adjacent to wetlands) with non-toxic ammunition is perfectly feasible it is hard to understand the resistance to the phase out of lead altogether.

  4. That Rob’s petition hasn’t even managed to gain half the signatures of the ‘opposition’ is extremely frustrating, but does show the power of vested interest.
    Mark, I know you have friends in the RSPB, but are you being too kind to them on this issue? If the WWT openly supports it, then surely the RSPB should be emailing all of their members in the same way. They soon ask for support of us members when they want something. Could you not openly ask for their immediate support on this important issue?
    Maybe I should ask through this site if I’m the only RSPB member who feels strongly about this. Please give me a ‘like’ if you think the RSPB should ask their members to sign this petition.

    1. As a WWT member I have not received a direct or indirect request to sign this petition. As an RSPB member I regularly read Martin Harper’s blog. In his blog about 19 days ago “Taking the Lead” he asked members to read the petition and sign it, which I did!

    2. As I think I mentioned before – at least some pro-lead ammunition supporters have signed more than once, using different email addresses. Also farmers forums and pigeon racer forums have been encouraging followers to sign – as they hate raptors. I assume anything that annoys the “lefty tree huggers” is a bonus for them. Sad.

  5. To all those above that ask about barrel damage..

    It is only very large diameter steel shot would have the potential to damage very expensive custom handmade shotguns which have comparatively thin walled barrels.
    These barrels were designed to be used for lead shot ammunition. Lead being a soft metal deforms to a degree at the moment of ignition. Steel shot hardly deforms at all – it does to a minute degree as one can see if one tests various shot materials using ballistic gelatine as a medium for examining shot deformation.This deformation is caused at the moment of accleration before the shot leaves the barrel.

    Steel shot of a diameter suitable for killing grouse or grouse sized birds (woodpigeon etc) will not deform a “thin walled” barrel.

    There are several alternatives to lead shot, probably bismuth being the best suited to thin walled shotguns.

    Most modern factory made shotguns are suitable for all shot types.

    I personally carried out many hundreds of pattern tests using steel shot, bismuth, tungsten matrix and others. I used all shot materials when I was a coastal wildfowler and gave up using lead shot before it became mandatory to do so.

    BASC Research Dept was much aware of the work I did and was given all my test results. John Harradine, then BASC Director of Research (now retired) was very keen on the testing of non-toxic shot and carried out many tests himself.

    I also developed many of my own loads as I had an interest in ballistics and these were carried out for me in a ballistics laboratory.

    There really is no reason why all shotgunners should not be using non-toxic alternatives to lead ammuntion.

  6. You have Suffolk Coastal highlighted this includes Minsmere RSPB reserve employees and volunteers so I checked it out. Shooters 136: Birders 21. People retire here to be near the reserves and that is a huge effort compared to logging in to a petition, don’t they care? So what’s missing? Awareness? Shooters are better organised/motivated?

  7. Thanks for a great blog Mark, and also for your continued support of the petition.
    I too have started to spend the occasional few minutes looking at these maps. A few days ago I noticed that my birthplace of Dudley North is one of only three constituencies that doesn’t have a single signature – I tweeted Lenny Henry and the Black Country Living Museum – but alas, the signatures remain at zero!

    As you’ve highlighted here before, the shooting lobby often dismiss critics as interfering townies or similar, so presumably all those signatures from Chelsea etc will be disregarded.
    I estimate that the email that went out to 44,000 WWT supporters led to about 1500 new signatures. This is excellent news of course, but it amazes me that despite an email going straight to someone’s inbox, with a link that takes you directly to a petition that takes about 30 seconds to complete, the take up is still about 3% of email recipients!! No wonder it is taking so long to get lead ammunition banned.

    Thanks to everyone who has supported the petition so far.

    1. Rob, if your into extrapolating percentage figures, how’s this one. Marks blog gets 48 likes, my comment gets 34. That’s seems a pretty good percentage of people who think that the RSPB should support your petition.
      It’s a bit late for this but, using your figs, if they emailed all 1.1million members, you’d have an extra 37500 signatures.
      Just a thought.

  8. Interestingly two of the Labour MPs who have promoted the move to ban toxic lead ammunition have low numbers of signatories in their constituencies.
    Gerald Jones who secured the Westminster debate few weeks ago, has 6 signatories in his constituency of Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney. Alex Cunningham of Stockton North has three signatories. Of course both of these are streets ahead of Ian Austin’s constituency of Dudley North with a grand total of zero votes.

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