Thousands more to eat lead-shot game

The Food Teachers Centre has a lot to learn!

GCSE students will be taught how to serve up meat containing high levels of lead thanks to the naivety of teachers and the lack of responsibility of the shooting ‘industry’.

Shooters are being encouraged by Taste of Game to donate shot game to schools – in this era of austerity the schools are unlikely to say no.

Much can be learned from a dead Pheasant (duck, partridge, pigeon or grouse).

    1. Ask the donor what the bird was shot with – and watch the shifty look pass across their face if they have to say ‘lead’.
    2. Ask whether lead is a poison (it is, here and here)
    3. Ask whether tiny fragments of lead ammunition (too small to see and remove) spread through the carcasse of a shot bird and elevate its lead content (they do – see the pictures here, here, here and below).
    4. Ask whether there is an agreed safe level of lead intake (there isn’t and your donor should know this).
    5. Ask whether small children and pregnant women should be particularly careful about their lead ingestion (they should, but there is no agreed safe level of intake).
    6. Ask whether lead levels in pheasants and grouse shot with lead are, on average, much higher than those which would be allowed in other meats (they are, see here and here).
    7. Ask whether eating lead-shot game is consistent with the scientific advice that ‘exposure to lead should be reduced as far as possible’ (it isn’t).
    8. Ask why the shooters in the UK continue to use a poison to shoot into food when non-toxic alternatives are available and used widely in Europe and elsewhere in the world (for evidence see here, here, here, here).
    9. Ask your donor to come back when they can assure you that non-toxic ammunition (steel is the most likely one) has been used.
    10. Ask yourself what sort of ‘sport’ behaves like this?
A x-ray of a shot partridge showing the lead shot (shiny white circles), a deformed shot, a fragment of bone (green arrow) and some of the tiny fragments of lead shot (red arrows).
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27 Replies to “Thousands more to eat lead-shot game”

  1. Vested interest strikes again.
    Most chefs believe that you can remove most of the lead shot from game making it safe. They believe this because this is what they have been taught.

    I honestly believe that most chefs would think twice about feeding a known poison to their customers if they knew the truth. But, unless they read this blog, how are they going to find out.
    And if chefs did know, they might put pressure on their suppliers to only supply lead free game.
    Isn't that what we all want? Safe wholesome food?

    How about all readers of this blog emailing the founder, as I have just done, and asking her to reverse this decision.
    We can moan or we can educate.

    Louise.davies@foodteacherscentre.co.uk.

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  2. I retired from teaching A level biology in 2013; at that time the syllabus used(AQA) included a section extolling the virtues of Grouse moor management as an example of 'conservation in action'. Most of my colleagues were not even ecologists, let alone ornithologists and slavishly followed the curriculum using the videos and set texts in support of their lessons. I chose a somewhat different path and taught the syllabus as required, but with substantial extra resources supplemented by my own experience of managing heather moor for conservation, which gave students the opportunity to take a wider view of grouse moor management. I am fairly sure my students developed a more pragmatic view of the pros and cons, but I do recall one young man who asked me one day, " Sir, how big is a grouse?" Next lesson I brought two study skins for 'show and tell'; he was astonished how small they were!!

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  3. One would think this is quite a simple thing to determine. Do we add poison laced food to the curriculum and/ or school food or not?
    Quite how any responsible organisation would answer yes to that question simply beggars belief.

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  4. I think we’re approaching this in the wrong way. It’s an excellent idea to present students with real world choices and differing points of view, etc. There’s half a dozen curriculum relevant learning points here, from economics (externalised costs, subsidy, wealth distribution) to politics to ethics to risk management.

    Mark’s list of questions are a great starting point for such a package – which presumably is the learning “bread and butter” of the education professionals at the Food Learning Centre. And I’m quite sure that having a dead bird or two in front of the class will make the lesson much more memorable than some dry lectures.

    We should encourage the FLC to take up the offer – but to use it to teach more than cooking skills.

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  5. And also in the biggest single supply of game in England - the deer and wild boar shot by the Forestry Commission in England as part of forest management. In biomass terms far exceeding any other single source of supply, and now all shot with copper bullets. The next step must surely be for pheasant shooting tenants to go the same way - but FC may need a bit of support - from the NT, perhaps, even if it can't give up letting its moorland to raptor persecuting grouse shooters ?

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  6. I have never read such self indulgent rubbish, lead shot is not the problem,, lead water pipes in older buildings lead on roofs lof buildings.eaking Untreated lead oxide into the water ways is the bigger problem. Bite on a soft lead shot and it squashes, bite on steel shot and break a tooth. If you are scared of a little lead don't eat game

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  7. Somebody asked you this question on Twitter, perhaps you'd care to answer it here?
    "Where are the stats to show the number affected by lead poisoning and cost to the NHS?"

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    1. James - Did they? I didn't see that. Who was it? I'd much rather answer it here and here I won't miss any questions or comments (and am not restricted to 140 characters.

      Anyone who eats food which elevates their lead levels is potentially affected. Just like anyone smoking cigarettes is potentially affected by the health aspects of smoking. That's why the FSA state (as it says in the post) 'exposure to lead should be reduced as far as possible' as 'there is no agreed safe level of lead intake'. The FSA have said, see minutes of Lead Ammunition Group, that 2 meals of lead shot game per annum would be 'have a minimal effect on overall exposure to lead' and therefore it would be reasonable to assume that the further from that one gets the higher the risk (just like fags, I guess). The reference to this is here http://www.leadammunitiongroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/LAG_meeting_minutes_17_220116_telecon.pdf (Section 3.5).

      There are no costs as far as I know - what cost would you assign to loss of quality of life and/or loss of life expectancy? How much did the Grenfell Tower inferno 'cost'?

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      1. So basically, while smoking related illness and deaths are well recorded and statistics are available, your hyperbole cannot produce any such statistics - because they don't exist.
        In addition, the use of minutes from the LAG count for nothing. I'll remind you of the then Executive Chairman of the Countryside Alliance, Sir Barney White-Spunner, comment on announcing his resignation from the Lead Ammunition Group (LAG); “abuses of process and evidence that render the group’s work so flawed it can never reach any scientific conclusions”.

        Finally, allow me to direct you to the Food Standards Agency "Advice to frequent eaters of game shot with lead" last updated as of 16 October 2015
        https://www.food.gov.uk/science/advice-to-frequent-eaters-of-game-shot-with-lead -
        'There is no agreed safe level for lead intake.'

        I would be more concerned about consuming processed meat on a regular basis, or heavy metal contamination of root crops!

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        1. James Whyte - how are smoking related deaths recorded? And how are smoking related illnesses recorded?

          If you wanted to deny that smoking was related to poor health, as many did and some still do, then you would follow exactly the same route as you are on over lead intake from food. Have a look at this http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB20781/stat-smok-eng-2016-rep.pdf

          Can you explain why switching to non-toxic ammunition isn't the best thing to do? That's more or less what is happening with smoking after all - ecigarettes.

          You don't need to direct me to the FSA advice, it is linked in the blog post several times - did you actually read the post and its links?

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          1. You ask "how are smoking related deaths recorded? And how are smoking related illnesses recorded?", then go on to produce a link to one publication containing relevant information!

            If the use of lead shot poses such a health problem, then surely this would warrant similar statistical information being available, but it isn't - why?

            "Can you explain why switching to non-toxic ammunition isn’t the best thing to do?"
            Well apart from some ballistic issues, and of course where the law forbids lead shot, then as with smoking or alcohol, it's down to personal choice. Just the same as it is the consumer's personal choice on whether to purchase shot game or not!

            "You don’t need to direct me to the FSA advice, it is linked in the blog post several times – did you actually read the post and its links?"
            Fine, I shan't refer you to the email communications of the LAG which give an indication the group was doomed to failure thanks to the actions of a minority.
            And yes, I did read the post and the links.

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          2. James - you will notice (if you read it more carefully) that the smoking statistics Key Facts use the following words and phrases 'conditions that could be caused by smoking', and 'estimated to be attributed to smoking' (twice). They don't say that smoking killed this many people. It's all estimates and based on good science - just like the lead information. Smoking related deaths aren't recorded - the impacts of smoking are estimated for the population as a whole.

            One's smoking and drinking is a matter of personal choice is it? Not when it affects others like getting into a car drunk or smoking in public. And that personal choice should be based on knowledge of risks - how about labelling such as 'May contain high levels of lead. Lead is a poison. FSA recommends that lead intake is minimised'

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    2. Hi James, I asked the exact same question last year! Quests what, no stats! Indicating there's no issue.

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          1. Go on, Mark. Finish your comment, please. Or provide some NHS stats!....

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        1. James, please explain to us why it is that lead was removed from paint, toys, plumbing materials, petrol etc?
          Please explain why, when asked to use an alternative to lead, fishermen complied.
          Please explain why, if we should be worried about heavy metals contaminating root crops, we should not be worried about the tons of lead blasted into our countryside each year.
          I'm a little confused at your argument.

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          1. Probably easier to ask you why lead is still used in a number of applications including paint, plumbing, building industry, electronics, plus of course it is a natural occurring element.

            "Please explain why, when asked to use an alternative to lead, fishermen complied."
            Co-incidence, so did wildfowlers!

            If there were "tons of lead" being blasted into our food growing countryside each year, the results would show in an ever increasing sickly population.
            A bit like the reported many thousands of wildfowl that supposedly succumb to lead poisoning. Yet the carcases are never found!

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  8. It would be clever if a few of the students in science as part of their course work could determine the lead content per pheasant donated and we might get an even clearer picture of the risk..

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  9. Pressure on the FSA to ban lead shot game from the food chain...its the only solution.

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  10. There is no safe minimum exposure to lead, especially for 'vulnerable' groups such as pregnant women and children. Surely we all want our children to have the best possible start in life? Why would we want to expose them to unnecessary toxins?

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    1. Caroline - and they are completely unnecessary. Non-toxic shot is readily available and used widely in other countries who have dumped lead.

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  11. Feeding lead-shot game to children is harmful for them. If the Shooting UK comment attributed to the BASC Taste of Game programme is accurate, the Food Teachers Centre should disabuse itself and BASC take a rain check.

    Charitably disposing of surplus shot game to old people and schools was suggested by game enthusiasts on several occasions over the years to my certain knowledge when I was BASC Chief Executive; but thankfully has always so far come to nothing as wiser counsels have prevailed.

    The risks to human health including children were summarised by the 2015 LAG report Lead Ammunition, Wildlife and Human Health on pages 22 to 27. The detail is fully set out in the risk assessment as Appendix 1 An evaluation of the risks to human health in the UK from lead derived ammunition (pages 93 onwards). LAG’s risk assessment was agreed and accepted by the entire Group of stakeholder interests and independent specialists at the time. FSA scientists have however subsequently reviewed the report and risk assessment in detail and have not demurred. The report and risk assessment mirror in all particulars several other governmental risk assessments carried out in other countries.

    As appropriate to any risk assessment task, we duly provided best estimates for the numbers of people affected in UK, albeit within broad limits. These were received by LAG in October 2014 and included in the final report as Appendix 8 The numbers of people potentially at risk from health and neurodevelopmental effects (pages 393-396). The numbers identified for vulnerable groups were indeed taken up with FSA following submission, as minuted in January 2016, in order to help render their advice more user-friendly and less open to misinterpretation, but progress has so far been limited.

    The comments by Martin Tiney and James Whyte are instructive as they demonstrate the depth of the communications-challenge.

    All I will say is that if lead in both metallic and compound forms (most if not all uses now strictly regulated by international and domestic law) and other lifestyle risks (smoking, drinking and eating burnt meat on barbeques) present other risks to human health, that does not mean that nothing should be done about lead ammunition contamination of game meat – especially when there are viable alternatives to lead ammunition – and the existential risks to shooting and game market reputation from persisting with the status quo are so important.

    Proving strict causation is always going to be challenging in such complex circumstances of risk exposure and it is easy for determined sceptics to generate smoke screens to hide behind. Quantification is inevitably imprecise and set within wide limits. But all rhetoric to one side, we know for sure that we are dealing with well-established risks involving large numbers of people (and animals) all affected in different ways, degrees and levels of likelihood depending on the circumstances. How many people have to suffer (and animals die) before such known and treatable risks are addressed properly?

    It will not be popular within the shooting hierarchy to say this but, if it has to be stated many times before the penny drops, then so be it.

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    1. May I remind you of the letter sent to you as Chair of the LAG, and following publication of the LAG Report, by the then Secretary of State confirming that the Food Standards Agency will not be changing its advice on the consumption of game shot with lead ammunition and notes that “the report does not provide evidence of causation linking possible impacts of lead ammunition with sizes of bird populations”. In relation to both human health and wildlife the Secretary of State is clear: “the report did not show that the impacts of lead ammunition were significant enough to justify changing current policy; we therefore do not accept your recommendation to ban the use of lead ammunition”.

      From the Countryside Alliance
      Countryside Alliance Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, said: “The LAG process has been mind-numbingly slow and increasingly controversial. So controversial in fact that half of the group resigned, unable to work with its Chairman John Swift, before LAG finally submitted its final report to Defra last year. Those resignations included that of our then Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner who said at the time that he left because of “abuses of process and evidence that render the group’s work so flawed it can never reach any scientific conclusions”.

      “We are profoundly grateful that the Alliance’s position has been entirely vindicated by the Secretary of State and that she has rejected any further restrictions on the use of lead ammunition, let alone the total ban that John Swift proposed in his report."

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  12. Refreshing to see such well informed comments by Caroline Taylor and John Swift.

    From John's comment ".....comments by......are instructive as they demonstrate the depth of the communications challenge." Brilliantly articulated critique of those with their heads in the sand.

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