Liz Truss – why are you suppressing the scientific evidence on lead?

Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons
Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons

It wouldn’t surprise me if Defra made a shockingly bad decision and failed to reduce the environmental risks of lead ammunition – they have been subject to energetic lobbying from the shooting industry and rather limp pleas from the two environmental NGOs who should be making the running (WWT and RSPB). It is clear that Defra is between a rock and a soft place.

But we will have to see – and you can put pressure on Liz Truss and Defra to do the right thing by signing Rob Sheldon’s e-petition to ban toxic lead ammunition.

Defra does not have an impressive reputation for using science to guide its policies (just think Badgers and neonicotinoids (oh yes, and Hen Harriers)) but I find it shocking how it is suppressing the publication of the evidence showing harmful impacts of lead ammunition that it has had in its hands since the report of the LAG was presented to Defra in early June 2015 (more than eight months ago).

In fact, we can see that Defra have known of the harmful effects of lead ammunition on human health for longer than eight months: the risk assessments on human and wildlife health were completed in 2014 (eg see here for the minutes of a meeting when a senior Defra civil servant was present).

There is no excuse for the continued suppression of these reviews, compiled by a group of experts.  Why is Defra keeping this science secret? We know that on the basis of the science the report of the LAG states, amongst other things, that ‘There is no convincing evidence on which to conclude that other options, short of replacement of lead ammunition, will address known risks to human health,especially child health‘.

800px-7.5_CartridgesLiz Truss – publish the evidence on harmful impacts of lead ammunition use now! You are withholding information that can inform individual’s decisions on their use of lead ammunition, their purchasing decisions and indeed their decisions about what food to sell to the public.  However late and bizarre your own decision might turn out to be (but let’s hope you will do the right thing) there is no excuse for keeping the science a secret.

Publish the LAG report including its risk assessments now.

And the chair of the LAG ought to be considering publishing the report himself since there is no sign that Defra intends to do so.

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15 Replies to “Liz Truss – why are you suppressing the scientific evidence on lead?”

  1. have you heard the one about 'it's not a defra report'?

    See https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/lead_ammunition_wildlife_and_hum#outgoing-518090

    defra reply to a timeline request after their statement that it was not their report ......
    "... it is not for Defra to publish the report and it is expected that the Lead Ammunition Group will publish the report." As it is not for Defra to publish the report, we do not have a date of publication.

    A follow up was sent back asking:
    Could you please therefore clarify if this group was / is funded through defra?
    If it is not funded through defra then from where it receives its funding, that is to say if it is public funds?
    The address of the LAG secretariat please.

    Wonder what the above points will reveal, that assumes they will reply ....

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  2. Under the LAG Terms of Reference it says this:-
    "Openness
    The key purpose of the Group is to inform government policy development. Advice from the Group will become publicly available, but Defra/FSA are likely to need time to consider and discuss the advice prior to wider dissemination. Defra /FSA will therefore decide on the timing of publication of any advice and prior to that all group members must respect confidentiality."

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    1. Northern Diver - exactly. But you'd think they would have had time by now. There will be big words in the report but...

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  3. Also, according to
    http://www.leadammunitiongroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/LAG_meeting_minutes_16_260515.pdf

    there should have been another meeting at the end of January. Did they meet and what was the outcome? The Group seems to be concerned by the inaction of DEFRA and the inadequate response from FSA. Incidentally, the deputy Chair of the FSA's husband is a grouse moor owner and member of Moorland Association.

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  4. I don't understand why this is the hill DEFRA have chosen to die on. I don't get why the Conservative party and the hunters and shooters are being so obstructionist over it. It isn't the case that it will close down grouse moors, it won't affect their guns, and it won't lose even a single vote. All that will happen is they buy a different sort of ammo, they probably won't even have to change brand as non-leadshot is widely available already. Plus it is not a case of them saving wildlife only with no difference to themselves. As primary consumers of game, it is their own health and their own children's health they are protecting as much as the rest of the ecosystem. As far as wider political consequences go, it actually protects the shooting industry as it gives us grimy environmentalists one less stick to beat them with. It just seems blatant refusal for the sake of refusing and nothing else.

    Ban leadshot, protect the grouse industry a little from criticism, save own health, give a token piece of cover to the claim of "greenest government ever", lose no votes and maybe pick up a few wavering middle class urban pseudo-greenies. It ought to be a no brainer for them.

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    1. 'Ought to be a no brainer' .... Is the establishment arrogance or entrenched attitude proportionally linked to the amount of ingested toxic lead in the 'healthy and wholesome game meat' they eat?

      After all if we were to believe the Countryside Alliance spin (no science seen yet) http://www.meatinfo.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/19251/Game_market_goes_wild_as_sales_grow.html then the market for game meat is at an all time high.

      Arrogant refusal only shines the spotlight on 'industry practice' .... if shooting delivers healthy food then why the practice of 'stink pits' http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/secret-photos-released-of-dozens-of-pheasants-dumped-into-a-pit-victims-of-uk-shooting-industry-10045528.html

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  5. Random22, sometimes I wonder if they just want us to know that they don't give a monkey's. An exercise in power and arrogance.

    For a few years in one job I had to deal with a decision making functionary who shall be nameless. It took a while for me to understand that the more I, and service users, wanted him to do a thing, the more determined he would be not to do it. I learned that I either found something better to do with my time, or I dug in for such a fight that in the end he'd have no choice but to do his job. I (we) won the important battles in the end, but I have no doubt that his ego swelled enormously from his power to frustrate the rest. I don't find it too hard to believe that this is the problem we're up against with Defra and its masters. Or Mistress in this case - but is Truss really in charge anyway?

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  6. "Defra does not have an impressive reputation for using science to guide its policies"

    Like Natural England and Buzzard licences?

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    1. Kie - so are you agreeing about Defra? Or is your 'point' that because others allegedly transgress Defra can't be at fault?

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      1. I just think its interesting which decisions you like to 'pick and choose' when it comes to your argument on following the science. The Natural England court judgment is an interesting read, quite illuminating when you read the detail of how they chose to interpret and apply their own rules...

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        1. Kie - I wasn't picking and choosing, I was commenting on Defra. You were going off subject for your own reasons - which I don't find very interesting at all.

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  7. The game shooters seem happy to eat lead and have promised to clean up the wetlands (though they probably won't). The petition has run out of steam and probably won't get anywhere near the pro lead number of signatures. The NGOs are as disunited as ever and don't look serious about supporting a ban. The issue has failed to electrify the public and has no serious political party support. DEFRA is under no pressure to reach a conclusion. That's the bad news. Is there any good news?

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    1. Phil - that's a good summary.

      There is a secret report of five years' deliberation that only a couple of dozen people have seen that is actually what the 'debate' is based on of course.

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