Truss misleads over waterfowl science

800px-7.5_CartridgesThere 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.

An Environment minister who is ineffective. Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons
An Environment minister who is ineffective.
Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons

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:

‘7.1 RG [Prof Rhys Green] described some recent research on lead shot ingestion rates and population trends of freshwater duck species in the UK and Europe.
RG would be able to provide the findings in confidence to Defra ahead of publication and
would also send to the Chair.’.

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.

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30 Replies to “Truss misleads over waterfowl science”

  1. “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…” ban driven grouse shooting too.

    Seriously, I’m not sure we stood a hope as long as the old Etonian clique were at #1 and #2. For May, though, it would be a very cheap (zero £) way of ticking an environment box and a one nation box at the same time.

    Depends on who the new SoS is of course. Not, not, not, OPat please.

    1. Camerons Etonian rule was that no idea that came from without the Conservative party should be acted on lest it gave impetus for other campaign groups to demand change. Ideas to be acted on could only be generated from within (or at least from within donors). I’d like to think this will change, but May is an old Thatcherite too and if anything that rule was even more inflexible during that regime. It is so damn depressing that in the last thirty years the most flexible and approachable government was the one led by the damn war criminal.

  2. We seem to be heading back to the Flat Earth Society days. Science is seen as an a la carte menu to be chosen or ignored – especially if it offends vested interests and backers. In the modern world it is crazy that an area like DEFRA is headed by a non-scientist. then again there are few scientists in Parliament (wonder why). Lead is a proven risk, DEFRA choose to ignore and disseminate around this. What makes this so stupid is that there are suitable alternatives and proven evidence of use in practice from various more enlightened countries. It will be interesting to read the response of the NGO’s e.g. WWT, RSPB to this and hear how they plan to continue to pursue the case. This is another example of dialogue failing completely when talking to a deaf government. Hopefully the penny might start to drop that more direct action and involvement of memberships may pay more dividends.

  3. Truss is going to be sec of State for Justice. Good news for the environment bad news for justice…

  4. As Liz Truss has now been appointed Justice Secretary, perhaps we were underestimating her.
    She was doing the job required of her, even on her last act.
    We have now probably gone from an ineffective Environment secretary to an ineffective Justice Secretary, willing to distort facts and refuse to take obvious required action, which is exactly what is wanted by those who put her in charge.
    Still, mustn’t prejudge, must we?
    Remarkable and frightening times we live in.

  5. From bad to worse? Andrea Loathesome appointed as secretary o state for DEFRA!

  6. I would like something done to persuade United Utilities to ban all shooting and the use of cartridges filled with toxic lead shot on the companies water catchments in the Forest of Bowland. Unitited Utilities has a statutory obligation to conserve protected wildlife including both Peregrine and Hen Harrier, but both species this year have disappeared from the moorland in Bowland the company own. Time the company to look closely at their involvement with driven grouse shooting, instead concentrate on their core business and proving better protection for wildlife that is dependent on the companies water water catchments for their survival. Clearly the current situation mixing wildlife conservation with shooting has shown the two interest are incompatible.

  7. Well, if we thought it couldn’t be worse than Truss, then we might have been wrong. I didn’t think it would be possible to be even more despairing than I was after the referendum, but apparently it is.

  8. Andrea Leadsom it is. Theresa May playing politics with the environment. Paterson was supporting her in the leadership election, I believe. Opposes wind farms and renewables targets. Not good.

  9. It looks like we have Andrea Leadsom as the new environment secretary. Given that DEFRA is in many ways reliant on the EU through the CAP and nature directives etc, it will be interesting to see what a leading brexiteer makes of it. One has to assume she doesn’t think much of the current system…

  10. Well I’ve just read that its to be Andrea Leadsom, the name says it all I suppose. And I seem to remember that she supported the return of fox hunting in her leadership bid. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse.

  11. Oh poor environment! Andrea Leadsome takes over at DEFRA. Is this nominative determinism? Maybe instead, “as a mother and grandmother”, she will be concerned about the effect of children ingesting toxins.

  12. Liz Truss is entirely unsuitable for the position she holds. Her general ignorance of environmental issues is shameful and make her a push-over for vested interests. Banning lead shot was a no-brainer for anyone with the slightest concern for public protection even if they don’t give a stuff about the environment!

    1. Yes you could – reports yesterday of a Chinese woman with an adventitious tooth in her face under her right eye. Cao Fang was her name, it is alleged

  13. Dear God, it gets worse, Mrs ‘bring back hunting with dogs’ Leadsom, is now Environment Secretary! I can’t see myself ever voting Tory again. Another one totally unsuitable for the post! Oh, but I forget, she’s a mum so concerned about the future!

  14. So what if the shooting industry are enraged by what Chris Packham had to say about eating red grouse, we are also enraged about the indiscriminate slaughter of our ‘protected’ birds of prey on red grouse moors. Personally we at Raptor Politics could not care less how many red grouse shooters or their friends eat, its the unsuspecting public who need to be aware of the danger posed by eating lead contaminated meat. The Californian Condor is a prime example of how dangerous eating meat contaminated with lead can be-this bird came very close to extinction because of it. We would recommend game shooters eat as many red grouse as they can in the hope they too will become extinct sooner rather than later just like the Californian Condor.

  15. I don’t mean to be rude, but whenever I saw Mrs Leadsom in the referendum campaign she came across as worse even that Johnson, Gove and Farage (God, does that sound like the world’s worst firm of solicitors…). The last clip I saw of her on 22 June on BBC Look East she was claiming that a reason for voting leave was to ensure that we could still “kick out our own government” – an apparent claim that the EU interferes with the conduct of UK elections (with naturally enough zero evidence to back it up). I can only assume she was exhausted from all that campaigning and had forgotten it was the EU Referendum not the AV referendum she was taking part in.

    Without wishing to be complacent the two positives I can think of are:
    * the only way is up – starting from such a low point she can only get more sensible, especially when she starts to get advice from senior civil servants rather than her chums in the leave campaign (or the Grafton hunt come to think of it)
    * or if she doesn’t she will soon be exposed and, like Paterson, will become toxic (geddit) she’ll be reshuffled out of Defra faster than a red grouse flushed by a line of beaters.

    Mrs May has shown herself ruthless already by getting rid of Gove and Osborne and may soon be seen gently stroking the Downing Street cat whilst purring “this government does not tolerate failure”. I’d give Leadsom a year at Defra at the most.

    Then again my last ‘prediction’ was that she wouldn’t be appointed … 🙂

    1. I can see why May has put Leadsom in charge of Defra, how could she ignore the claims of someone with so much relevant experience on their CV?

      Ministers with first-class MSc’s in Agro-ecology and that have built-up up a 5,000 acre mixed organic HNV farm from scratch, as well as having co-authored several key papers on topics ranging from rewilding to ecosystem services don’t exactly grow on trees do they? Personally, I think it’s amazing the way she has single-handedly intervened to reverse the decline of farmland birds in her own constituency.

      And already we have been blessed with some of her insightful pearls of wisdom: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies…”

      Seriously – what’s not to like?

  16. Simply goes from very bad to even worse. We have now got a Defra Mnister who until quite recently did no believe in global warming. What a shambles it all is. Wildllife deserves so. much better. What has it done to deserve this?

  17. I have just read the report, and I am appalled by DEFRA’s response. I can only assume that Truss didn’t even look at it; there is no way any reasonable person could come to the conclusion that no action was necessary if they had actually bothered to read the report properly. At least we now have an explanation for the shooting community’s refusal to recognise the problem – all that lead intake over generations has lowered their intelligence.

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