Lead week, 18 #Pbweekmia

This is Lead Week on this blog.

Dear Supermarkets who sell game meat

There are quite a few supermarkets who sell, or have sold, game meat.  I believe they are all aware of this series of blogs on the lead content of game meat.  Some have said that they will look into it – that’s good. It’s good provided that they do look into it and then come back with their policy on selling game meat with lead in it.

Other supermarkets may have noticed that Iceland Foods has sold Red Grouse meat to the public with average lead values of 40 sampled grouse that are 100 times the legal limit for lead (MRL – maximum residue level) for non-game meat. There is no MRL set for game meat, despite the fact that lead is a poison, and most game is shot with lead even though it need not be as non-toxic alternatives exist.  Other supermarket chains may be breathing a sigh of relief that they are not in the spotlight, but they know that they could be.

It is perfectly legal to sell game meat with high, very high, or even extraordinarily high lead levels. But is it ethical? And does this behaviour accord with various supermarkets’ codes of conduct and stated policies? We’ll have to have a look at that and the supermarkets themselves should be thinking about it, right now.

Here are some other questions to ponder if you are a supermarket chain selling game meat:

  • have you tested the lead levels of your game meat? If not, why not? And if not, will you do so now?
  • have you asked your suppliers to supply you with game shot with non-toxic ammunition in future? If not, why not?
  • do you label your game meat to say that it contains lead? If not, why not? If so, what other information on the impacts of lead on blood pressure, kidney disease, spontaneous abortion and IQ does your label contain?
  • is selling game meat with high lead levels in it a money earner for you?
  • by marketing lead-shot game you are almost inevitably growing the market and increasing the dietary lead intake of the public – bit by bit.  Are you happy to be playing a part in this?

You should all have the chance to review your positions.  That shouldn’t take very long.

I intend to raise funds to buy game meat from another retail outlet and get them tested for lead levels.  I will publish the results.

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17 Replies to “Lead week, 18 #Pbweekmia”

  1. Keep up the pressure Mark. Although I suspect that GWCT CA etc think "it's simply a case of money talking, our members have all the money so we can do as we like and the buying public are basically stupid." Anything for a quick buck eh?

    1. Gerard - there is practically no money in selling game for supermarkets. It's a trivial part of their businesses.

      There will be a pr cost to the supermarket which reacts least and slowest to this issue, and a pr gain for the one who reacts most impressively and quickest. Let's see how they all react.

      Thank you for your support and your comments

      1. I suspect it is a strategy to try to convince those who are already convinced that grouse is a farm food product and not a sport.
        Then it can defend it's subsidies and get permission to kill anything that interferes with that product as NGA are pressing for with Buzzards and Buccleuch is for Buzzards (and anything else?)

    2. Gerard - human health toxicology is a specialist area - as you might expect the GWCT, as a wildlife charity, does not employ these specialists. I am not aware the WWT or the RSPB employ human health toxicology staff either.

      The European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) and the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) do have human health toxicology staff that have looked at lead - both reported in 2012. It will be interesting to see if they amend their advice based on this look at 40 grouse. They might - but as Mark has said, whilst he found higher levels of lead, they are in line with previous studies - so we should not be too shocked if they don't.

      1. Andrew - as you may have noticed, the FSA advice is that there is no agreed safe level of lead.

        But then again, although the scope of GWCT scientists is rather narrow, I notice that the WWT and RSPB do have scientists who have published in peer-reviewed toxicology journals. They wouldn't be toxicologists, but their work in the field has passed the same standards as those who are. Quite impressive eh?

        One of these papers is the one by Green and Pain (2012) which you are continually avoiding in these comments. I've mentioned it a few times but it keeps slipping your mind, it seems. We'll take it that you agree with it and its finding that switching to one lead-shot game meal of meat a week increases dietary lead intake for a typical consumer by around seven fold? And that this has real impacts on the consumer's blood pressure, risk of chronic kidney disease, risk of spontaneous abortion in women and on the IQ of young children. Published science that demonstrates the health risk of eating game meat shot with lead when the people who pay your wages could simply switch to non-toxic ammunition and remove that risk altogether.

  2. Mark,

    I think clarity on the direction of travel would be helpful, there appear to be two or maybe three issues muddled up here;

    *A campaign to get lead shot banned - which is what think this is about and is to me a no -brainer
    *Another line of attack on grouse shooting - which I think it is a bit too - issues would have been clearer if you'd picked, say, pheasant, to sample if this was really a different issue to DGS. I fear that combining the two issues may reduce our chances of winning either, as it makes the "thin edge of the wedge" opposition argument much more plausible.
    * The danger is that without clarity this can be twisted into a narrative that this is a campaign against all shooting, period - which is the narrative BASC et all would love it to be because they know they can win that one. I don't think that is a position even most people like me who don't shoot could support, which is why it's dangerous if it could be seen that way. Don't want to shoot ourselves in the foot. (Sorry, couldn't resist!).

    In your missive to the supermarkets it was less then clear that your headline ask was for them to require only game shot with non toxic shot to be specified. It sounds more like you're pushing them not to sell game at all. Maybe you are? I'm really not sure, and I'm not sure they will be either.

    1. jbc - thanks very much. But you are way off the mark. And if anyone is muddying the waters, this time it is you (unusually considering you are often spot on with your comments).

      The missive to the supermarkets is crystal clear that it is about lead - I think the word 'lead' appears 15 times, and non-toxic a few more too.

      Thanks for your advice on which game I should buy with my money, and get analysed at my expense. But if I had bought Pheasant there would be even more chance of this being labelled as a thin end of the wedge issue. But anyway, grouse shooters and other shooters say that I am anti all shooting anyway so there is no way that I can win on that one.

      Read it again and you might have to change your mind.

      1. It's your blog Mark. No offence was intended even if you seem to have taken some.

        But still I invite you to ponder, if someone who's on your side doesn't think it was as clear as you intended, maybe someone who from a supermarket who's brand new to the issues will also find it so.

        Maybe someone who's already opposed to changing anything will choose to read it some other way just because it suits them.

        The fact that you see the objective of the supermarket letters as being crystal clear doesn't invalidate my observation that I didn't. Doesn't mean you have to agree with me either, of course. Your campaign, your blog. I want your anti lead shot campaign to succeed, remember?!

        1. I don't get your point at all.
          It is primarily about lead hence all the calls to sign the petition.
          It's great that Mark looked at Red Grouse as it kills two birds with one stone.
          I may not have all my facts straight but i thought tests had been done on other game but not grouse.
          I am extremely happy if the bias of SNH and the Scottish Minister in backing healthy, sustainable grouse is exposed as a complete lie.
          Christ, it's a stroke of genius.
          Can't understand why it has to be down to an individual to do it and why it isn't front page news.

          1. Anand - Red Grouse had been tested before - but this sample is a larger sample and confirms the high lead levels in red Grouse meat.

    2. I am not sure it can even be considered an attack on grouse shooting only their mentality.
      An intelligent spin doctor would just advise the grouse lobby to support all the changes which conservationists have been suggesting, banning lead being one of them. Problem solved.
      An intelligent government would also just ban lead (and other grouse moors problems).
      So with lead gone, supplementary feeding taken up, upland flood management implemented, muirburn stopped, the grouse lobby lobbying for: grouse moor licensing; vicarious liability; increased power to SSPCA; mandatory custodial sentencing by courts; more non compliance cuts by SGRPID; stop scare guns and veterinary drugs on moors; stop killing of Mountain Hares and mammalian predators,stop building roads and drainage ditches etc. etc
      Then how many would be anti-shooting?

      Of course a cunning spin doctor would do the opposite and the grouse lobby becomes more polarised and an outright ban becomes inevitable.
      I think it is what considered a no brainer.
      But what goes on inside the brain of the privileged is beyond me.
      Merricks goes on about polarization as though it is something terrible. I can't see it is a problem. I want to polarize myself from the inside of the brain of the privileged landowner class.

  3. ot ...

    Interseting read. But you probably have seen it already.

    By the way, if BASC and co. are arguing that grouse is a farmed product (it gets farm subsidies) surely its meat has to come under the same regs as for poultry etc
    They can't have it both ways.
    Or have I lost the plot?

    1. Murray - Red Grouse is not farmed. The grants are grants for land management but come from the CAP budget. But they do reflect the past agricultural land use of the grouse moors - the sheep that were there and mostly are still there. We should aim to get those payments focussed squarely on carbon storage, water retention, water quality etc.

    2. I see it as spin.
      Every photo of a beautifully packaged Red Grouse and photo of the Scottish Environmental Minister or head of Scottish Natural Heritage posing in front of a poster for 'Nature's Larder' and 'Healthy, Natural, Environmental' is designed to counterbalance the photos of piles of waste dead Red Grouse after a shoot.
      Soon they will be doing it with Mountain Hares if they aren't already.


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