There is a very good article in today’s Times by Ben Webster with the headline ‘Lead ammunition to stay despite poisoning danger‘.
Liz Truss, perhaps as one of her last acts, and indeed one of her first (as the least effective Environment Secretary ever), announced that people shooting birds for fun would not be required to switch away from shooting a poison into the food that others eat, and sell. A small inconvenience to hunters is of more importance to Defra than waterbird populations that are poisoned by spent lead ammunition and the human health risks.
After more than 13 months of inaction, the Defra Secretary of State chose the moment of David Cameron’s resignation speech to publish her decision to do nothing. Well done to The Times for picking up on this at a time when the media’s gaze was understandably elsewhere.
The hopeless Truss misleads with this choice of words ‘With regard to the impact of lead ammunition on wildlife, we note that the report does not provide evidence of causation linking possible impacts of lead ammunition with sizes of bird populations in England.’
Defra is well aware that a scientific paper will appear online within days, in the international journal Ibis, that links population declines of duck species to their propensity to ingest lead ammunition while feeding. The minutes of the last LAG meeting state:
The timing of the government announcement rejecting an expert report’s recommendation to ban lead shot may well have been due to three things: this may be Truss’s last day in post and she will think she is doing a service to her successor to get this hot potato off the desk on a good day to bury embarrassing news; if Truss keeps her post in Defra she will have made a highly controversial decision at a time when few will notice it; and she can state the misleading sentence about the science of waterfowl population declines just before a new relevant piece of evidence, of which Defra is fully aware, is in the public domain.
A Defra spokesperson is quoted in The Times as saying ‘Public safety is a priority for this government. The independent committee on toxicity and the Food Standards Agency confirmed advice that people who frequently eat lead-shot game, particularly children and pregnant women, should limit their consumption.‘
Liz Truss is a mother (apparently some believe this makes a difference to her view of the future) but is unmoved by the fact that the expert report from LAG states ‘…some 10,000 children are growing up in households where they could regularly be eating sufficient game shot with lead ammunition to cause them neurodevelopmental harm and other health impairments.‘.
If Theresa May wants to live up to her promise that her government should act for all and not for small powerful vested interests then she should sack Truss from the Cabinet and ensure that the next SoS for Defra takes action on poisonous lead.