I was talking to a young-ish woman a while back (I’d guess she was in her 30s) in a social context and the subject of game meat came up, pretty much by chance. Now I don’t know this woman well, it was the first time we’d met, and we may never meet again, but I’m pretty sure she is a Guardian reader from the rest of our conversation.
She said something along the lines of ‘Of course, game meat is very healthy’ and I said something along the lines ‘Yes it is, apart of course from the fact that it is loaded with lead’. And she looked puzzled – and slightly alarmed.
So I told her about how lead ammunition shatters as it passes through the flesh of the shot bird or mammal and tiny fragments are distributed through the carcase – far smaller than the already small lead pellets.
I also told her that the advice from NHS England was for pregnant women (and toddlers) to avoid eating game meat shot with lead on health grounds. She looked, for a moment, completely shocked.
It’s best to avoid eating game that has been shot with lead pellets while you’re pregnant, as it may contain higher levels of lead. Venison and other large game sold in supermarkets is usually farmed and contains no or very low levels of lead. If you’re not sure whether a product may contain lead shot, ask a retailer.
When the game shooting industry promote game as a healthy food they don’t give this health warning. When most supermarkets sell game on their shelves they don’t give this health warning.
I have wondered several times whether I was right about the look of shock that went across this woman’s face. Is she a mother? I have no idea. Has she fed game meat to her kids? I have no idea. Is she now regretting it? I have no idea.
But it’s very clear that no-one in government, in retail and certainly not in the industry that profits from game shooting, is doing enough to get these messages out there.