M&S – oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

Mon 20 July CopyM&S announced today that they intend to sell Red Grouse meat this year – I had asked them following previous years discussion (2014: here and here; 2015 here and here).

Today I asked M&S some questions.

Here are their answers:


Our team have worked with the RSPB and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to launch an industry leading ‘Code of Practice’ to ensure all our game, including red grouse, is sourced to the highest standards of game rearing and moorland management, from a small group of estates that we know and trust. Our red grouse will be sourced from a single estate in Scotland.

It is also our requirement that estates operate to the industry’s Code of Good Shooting Practice and the Defra Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Game Birds.

Lead shot is the most humane way to shoot grouse. We ensure lead shot is not used near any water courses and our policy on lead shot follows the Food Standards Agency guidelines and is clearly detailed on our packaging.


The self-styled ‘industry leading’ Code of Practice hasn’t been sent to me.  This is the closest I can find on the M&S website which mentions the Code of Practice but doesn’t actually say what it is. I’ve asked M&S for a copy, as a customer – well, maybe not for much longer.

I asked the RSPB to comment on this matter early this morning but they haven’t yet got back to me – but it will be interesting to see whether the RSPB welcomes the potential sale of Red Grouse by M&S and give this a big thumbs up.

M&S require the estates supplying them to stick to the law – that’s good. How do they check?

What checks do M&S put in place to monitor the potential cocktail of chemicals that might end up in Red Grouse meat – see this cracking blog, of today, by Raptor Persecution UK?

We can only assume that M&S are happy to sell you meat with lead levels up to 3500 times those which would be legal in beef, pork, chicken etc since they don’t say that they aren’t, don’t say that they are requiring their suppliers to use non-toxic ammunition, don’t say that they are going to look more carefully at the science and don’t say anything except they won’t shoot lead into areas near water courses. M&S seem to be more careful about the lead levels in water courses than they are about the lead levels in the meat that they put on their shelves for you to buy and eat. Amazing. It’s not just lead-loaded meat, it’s going to be M&S lead-loaded meat!

‘Lead shot is the most humane way to shoot grouse’ – I wonder where that came from? And does this mean that M&S will require all suppliers to use toxic ammunition rather than non-toxic ammunition? Do M&S sell shot waterfowl? Are they going to stop selling these as it would be illegal for them to be shot in England, and in most circumstances in Scotland, with lead ammunition? Do M&S sell shot venison – and do they reject those shot with copper bullets?  M&S do not appear to know what they are doing on this tricky subject – they are tying themselves up in knots.

M&S has not disclosed the estate from which they intend to source their grouse.

M&S game policy is in a mess.  Let’s see whether they can come to a sensible position in the next few days, shall we.




16 Replies to “M&S – oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!”

  1. Lead in meat is ok but lead in water isn’t?
    Pretty pathetic state of affairs really.
    What is the big deal about M&S having lead-shot game meat on the counter?
    Perhaps M&S bosses are in cahoots with the particular Estate owner?
    No doubt the RSPB will be kissing the Estate owner’s wellies too.

  2. M & S says “our policy on lead shot follows the Food Standards Agency guidelines”
    But Defra is hanging onto the LAG report …… for how long now? I wonder why?

    The Chair of the Food Standards Agency is married to a grouse moor owner and goes on driven grouse shoots. However, I am sure Ms Hancock will not let her family business interests/hobbies affect her judgement on what is safe for the British public. I am sure she will want to see the LAG report published as soon as possible so that the FSA can review their guidelines in light of the LAG report.

  3. Oh dear, oh dear, indeed, particularly if the RSPB is playing ball with this nonsense!

  4. During my converastions with Rory Stewart and his subsequent checks re FSA/Local authorities etc it is clear that no grouse entering the food-chain are currently being checked. How can that be right or safe? How will M and S check their supplies? Utterly irresponsible of them-so there must be someone leaning on them!

  5. Quite why it’s not possible to cease the use of lead shot on the ‘small group of estates we know and trust’ is baffling. M&S could show real leadership here, but appear to be deliberately bolstering the position of driven grouse shooting. Why?

    And I very much hope Martin Harper or someone from the RSPB gives a full account of the work they’ve done to develop their industry leading ‘Code of Practice’ – where’s the code, and are the standards independently validated and adherence verified? By who exactly?

    This has the potential to damage the RSPB’s reputation, as well as that of M&S, for whom they appear to be providing cover.

    1. Well, it looks as though the RSPB’s reputation is intact, whereas M&S deliberately misled its customers by implying (stating) that the RSPB endorsed its secret ‘Code of Practice’

  6. Dear M&S,
    I’m interested in buying your red grouse this summer.
    I understand you are sourcing this game from an estate that shoots with lead shot.
    I would very much like to marinade the whole carcass in red wine before doing a slow casserole.
    I’m not particularly concerned for myself, but will the resulting ‘slow cook’ gravy and meat be safe for small children to eat?
    Many thanks for your advice.
    Yours sincerely,

    1. Dear Ms Carvell,

      Thank you for your reply.
      You have completely avoided my query re M&S lead shot grouse. I repeat, is it safe for young children eat this game meat or not? In particular, is it safe when the whole bird is cooked slowly in a casserole?
      As a long standing M&S customer, I’m very much in favour your excellent, high quality and sustainably sourced selection of game products. I also cherish your exemplary customer service ethos of good advice and honest guidance. Therefore I am sure this question can be resolved satisfactorily.
      Thank you.
      Yours sincerely,
      Murray Marr.

  7. One assumes that this is a conscious business decision, time will tell if it is a bad one and if sufficient customers write to their CE / Chairman explaining why they are reviewing shopping at M&S they might review?

    I had been reviewing memberships and sadly this has pushed RSPB rejoin down several notches. Maybe a truce between YFTB/bully beef and the RSPB …. let’s all work together to ‘progress’ the [In]action plan kind of kidology/spin?

    But, ever an agnostic and thanks for keeping food safety on the menu.

  8. Do M&S know that it is illegal to use lead shot over peatland in Scotland and have they checked that their single estate is not shooting over peatland?

    How much is going to cost to collect random grouse from the shop and have them tested for the lead and the pesticides and get it published quick enough to protect the public?

    Any intell on the nature of the RSPB involvement?

    1. Circus – watch this space, at 6am tomorrow, for statement from RSPB that is well worth seeing.

  9. Re the humane claim – in the best possible way this can only be described as bollox. Which is a shame as it undermines the rest – which of course you may choose to dispute on other terms.

  10. What’s the latest on them and Waitrose? Especially now the meat is available to sell again this year.

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