Guest blog – Ban Lead Ammunition by Caroline Lucas MP

Lead is a highly toxic substance. It poses huge risks to human and animal health. That’s why it has been banned from petrol, paints, and various household items in many countries across the world, including in the UK. There is however still a glaring omission in these prohibitions: lead is still widely used in ammunition for hunting and shooting across the UK. This is an astonishing exception in regulation and must urgently change.

It is estimated that at least 5000 tonnes of lead ammunition is deposited into the UK environment annually, accumulating a toxic legacy and causing suffering and death to large numbers of birds – and of course, there are risks to human health too. It took many decades for policy-makers to realise the perils of leaded petrol – but with many species of wildlife facing threats as never before, we cannot afford to wait that long. We need to see action now.

In good news, there are a number of useful alternatives to lead ammunition –  meaning there’s now no excuse for the shooting community not to embrace alternatives as soon as possible. Indeed, any individual, conservation organisation, or statutory agencies that manages land must ensure that any shooting that takes place on their property uses non-toxic ammunition.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation states that without clear evidence of the harm caused by lead, it will not consider a change in its policy – but the evidence of leads toxic legacy in the environment is growing. For example, a 2015 report by scientists at Oxford University found that 100,000 wetlands birds are killed every year by discarded lead ammunition. Speaking to BBC News at that time, Lord Krebs, emeritus professor of zoology at the University of Oxford, and former chair of the UK Food Standards Agency, said there was “an overwhelming body of evidence” that lead ammunition was “a risk both to humans and to wildlife”.

To help put an end to this toxic practice, this week I’ve tabled a cross-party motion in Parliament calling for an end to the sale and use of lead ammunition – full text below. These motions are a simple way of MPs calling on the Government to act – in this case, to protect nature and wildlife, as well as public health. Please do ask your MP to sign up.

That this House notes that even low levels of lead are toxic to humans and other animals and that in the UK, lead was banned from use in petrol, paint and water pipes decades ago, with most other uses strictly controlled; further notes that lead ammunition (gunshot and bullets) remains a glaring and largely unregulated exception; expresses concern that at least 5000 tonnes of lead ammunition is deposited into the UK environment annually, accumulating a toxic legacy and causing suffering and death to large numbers of birds; is alarmed that in England, even the limited restrictions from 1999 banning certain uses of lead gunshot are largely ignored; is deeply concerned that an estimated 50,000 – 100,000 wildfowl die of lead poisoning each winter in the UK; firmly believes that individuals, NGOs and statutory agencies that manage land must ensure that any shooting that takes place on their land uses non-toxic ammunition; and calls on the Government to put the UK on the front foot by introducing a ban on the sale, possession and use of all lead ammunition across the UK.

5 Replies to “Guest blog – Ban Lead Ammunition by Caroline Lucas MP”

  1. On the day of the “meaningful” vote, Caroline Lucas finds time to think of other issues. Thamk you, Caroline.

  2. Politicians are showing themselves in their true colours at the moment but Caroline Lucas is one I have time for as she seems to be one who is genuinely interested in taking care of the environment and wildlife. Too many of the others seem on a different planet and divorced from reality of real life?

    When will the rest wake up and take the environment seriously? We have a 25 Year ‘Plan’ of sorts but a much better #PeoplesManifestoForWildlife

  3. “The British Association for Shooting and Conservation states that without clear evidence of the harm caused by lead, it will not consider a change in its policy”.
    The April 2018 update report from the Lead Ammunition group, set up to advise Defra,
    is unequivocal in it’s statements of lead causing harm.
    BASC, Defra, and the uk government all either cannot read or does not want to read.
    For a government still committed to being the greenest ever, who have decided to enact an environment act not worthy of the name, it is clear that no amount of evidence is sufficient for those choosing to be blind, and these 3 parties are all aware of their deceit.
    Just as bad, in my opinion, why can the NGOs in the environmental movement not let together to agree that they are prepared to go to their members and ask them to support a petition banning lead ammunition in every publication they issue over the 6 months life of the petition?
    Many of them are in the various LINKS. Why not act, and agree support for a petition, if some individuals are prepared to start one?
    I will write to my MP, but I will also complain to each of the environmental NGOs of which I am a member, that they do not do enough to help get lead banned. They could act decisively, and with a common voice, to help the cause which Caroline Lucas is promoting.

  4. I have sent the following to Martin Harper at the RSPB, and will send similar messages to other NGOs of which I am a member:
    The 2015 petition to the UK government by Rod Sheldon to ban toxic lead ammunition reached 17,052 signatures. This is not adequate. If a petition does not reach 100,00 signatures, no debate in in grounds of parliament can take place. Your NGO can ensure that your membership know of a new petition if you publicise it in each of your member publications during the 6 month life of the petition. I would like your organisation, of which I am a member, to commit to supporting the petition, preferably in the manner I suggest, in order to have it considered for a debate in Parliament.
    The damage caused by lead ammunition, and the failure to prevent such damage by the government, is clear in the April 2018 update report by the Lead Ammunition group . I would ask you to confirm strong support for a new uk government petition, equally strongly communicated to you members throughout the 6 months.

  5. I wrote my MP about the use of lead ammunition, as suggested.
    I was pleasantly surprised to receive this within the communication, particularly as the holding reply advised that Ross did not sign early day motions.
    “Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding lead ammunition.
    I often publish my opinions on a variety of topics on my website:
    If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you again for taking the time to get in touch.”
    The executive summary of the 2018 update from the Lead ammunition group said: “A number of recent studies have confirmed that partial bans on the use of lead ammunition, i.e. restrictions covering certain taxa or geographical/habitat areas, are ineffective or only partially effective in reducing risks to wildlife.”
    Lord Krebbs tabled a parliamentary question after the report was published the response to which from Lord Gardiner of Kimble included these amazing words: “Through the Environmental Protection (Restriction on Use of Lead Shot) (England) Regulations 1999, the use of lead shot ammunition is restricted to protect waterfowl from lead poisoning. Its use is banned on all foreshores, certain Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and for the shooting of all ducks and geese, coot and moorhen. The supply of lead weights for fishing is also prohibited.”
    Looking at the MP’s website entry, it was hardly likely to ease my concerns but did acknowledge that “ In addition, Ministers recognise that there seems to be an issue with poor compliance with the regulations” which is somewhat encouraging but unlikely to lead to any change in the position of the UK government.
    All in all, I believe the exercise was worthwhile, and I have replied to the MP thanking him, but did not result in him signing the early day motion, as expected.

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