UK shooting industry set to fight against EU lead ammunition ban

Well, this is terrifying for UK citizens concerned about the environment, wildlife and human health. In what should have been an easy PR ‘win’, the country’s largest shooting organisation has instead announced it is to fight a new forthcoming EU regulation restricting the use of toxic lead ammunition on wetlands.

[Graphic from Wildfowl & Wetland Trust (WWT) showing how toxic lead ammunition can contaminate the environment, wildlife and humans. This overview from WWT (here) provides an excellent summary of why everyone should be concerned about lead poisoning]

On 3rd September 2020, 18 European countries ‘chose health over poison’ in an historic vote to ban lead shot in wetlands (see press release here from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust who has campaigned on this issue for years).

This decision now needs to be ratified by the EU Council within 3 months (this is considered to be a formality) and then an official two-year period of transition will take place. It is not yet clear how this will affect the UK as it all depends on the timing re: Brexit (will it clear ratification before 31 December 2020?) and whether the UK Government will be obliged to adhere to the ruling or whether it will be able to decide its own position.

However, in response to the vote, BASC, the British Association for Shooting (and conservation, ahem), has announced that it is to ‘fight’ the new regulation and will lobby the UK Government not to accept it because, er, its a ‘bad law’ and it threatens the shooting industry’s professed five-year voluntary transition to non-toxic lead that was announced earlier this year.

Ah, that’ll be the five-year voluntary transition that was rejected outright by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (here) and the latest of many previous ‘voluntary bans’ by the shooting industry that have been unsuccessful (e.g. see here, here and here). The ongoing failure of the shooting industry to comply with current regulations on many issues, including the use of lead ammunition over wetlands (here), means there should be absolutely zero confidence in its ability and/or willingness to stick to any notional voluntary ban.

Here’s BASC’s statement in response to the forthcoming ban on lead ammunition over wetlands:

It really is an odd position for an organisation that claims to have conservation as one of its central pillars, isn’t it? BASC has campaigned for years to be able to keep using toxic lead ammunition, even though the poisonous properties of lead ammunition and its devastating impact on wildlife has been known for years and years and years, and most of the previously significant sources of lead in the environment (e.g. lead-based paint and leaded petrol) were eliminated decades ago.

Then we saw the big u-turn from the shooting industry in February (apart from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, which continues its steep nose-dive trajectory in the face of growing environmental awareness and concern) but this u-turn was seen by many as a time-wasting ploy because a voluntary ban is never going to be enforceable and there’d be no consequences if the voluntary ban wasn’t in place in five years time.

And now just a few months on, when it’s pretty clear that, based on clear and unequivocal evidence, the EU is heading towards a total ban on lead ammunition in all habitats, not just wetlands, the shooting industry decides to dig its heels in and shout ‘It’s not fair’ as it continues to pollute our environment and our wildlife, and put human health at risk, all for the sake of wanting to shoot some birds for a bit of a laugh.

One more time, for anyone who doesn’t yet understand the ‘toxic legacy’ of lead ammunition on our environment, wildlife and people, have a read of this excellent piece from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (see here) and then ask yourself why toxic lead ammunition wasn’t banned in this country years ago, and why gamebird meat is still exempt from testing for poisonous lead whereas every other type of meat destined for the human food chain is not.

28 thoughts on “UK shooting industry set to fight against EU lead ammunition ban”

  1. Isn’t this a major U-turn by this lot? Didn’t they all agree to get rid of lead shot last year? I thought the SGA were the only Luddites to come out against it?

  2. They really dont give a damn and do not realise the population of the U.K. will eventually cotton on to this and call for further restrictions on firearms .

    1. What have firearms got to do with choosing lead over non-toxic shot?
      Whilst the British public live in a country with the strictest firearms laws in the world, it has seen huge rises in the use of illegal handguns and assault rifles since those weapons were banned. People getting shot is an everyday occurance in the cities of the UK and firearms legislation has proved worthless.

  3. These pricks really make me sick, it’s always about them and what they want, it’s about time the selfish bastards were told what they will do or the whole shambles of a so called sport will be banned, if the government back them on this the lot of them need sacking, can and will they put the few above the rest of the population and their health. These people need to realise that they are very lucky that shooting hasn’t been banned already.

  4. That 77% of locally sourced duck had been shot with lead ammunition is indicative of the contempt in which some shooters hold such environmental issues. The WWT report should be required reading by all applicants for shotgun licences. The sale of lead-based cartridges should be banned – not necessarily a 100% solution, but it would be a good start.

    1. Without the smokescreen of being conservationists they would lose the small amount of credibility they have. I doubt anyone in Brussels will give any weight to their pathetic whining.

    2. The shower of shit is the environmentalists, electric cars, lead ammo, wind turbines etc, batteries for an electric car, last 4 years but take enough energy and release enough waste into the environment to run an average petrol car for 8 years, manufacturing rare earth magnets for wind turbines is killing the planet far quicker than burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, but like all environmentalists they HAVEN’T GOT A CLUE, just follow their puppet masters like the good sheep they are, and no I don’t have a shotgun…

  5. Please don’t forget the wadding and the cartridge are plastic. Some but not all cartridges are correctly disposed but the wadding certainly isn’t

  6. 6,000 tonnes of lead scattered over our countryside to be corroded and dissolved into our countryside and water supplies.
    I’ve been fighting to expose this for years.


    1. If the lead pollution aspect has escaped scrutiny I would have thought that SEPA should be explaining why. On many driven bird shoots the guns frequently fire over the same ground. Would that not result in a high concentration of lead contamination in some places.
      Some scientific advice on this could be useful.

    2. I suspect that the lead from shooting is not an important source of lead in the public water supply. Although 6000 tonnes of lead is a lot of lead it is negligible compared to the massive volumes of water supplied. For example Yorkshire Water alone claims to supply 1.24 billion litres (= 1.24 million tonnes) of drinking water daily. Also water companies are required by law to meet strict water quality standards which include limits for lead concentrations. Potentially a private water supply might suffer excessive lead levels as a result of heavy shooting within its catchment though?

      There are plenty of other reasons to want lead ammunition to be banned, however.

  7. We might be out of the EU, but we are still bound by other international treaties…The Ramsar treaty underpins the UK approach to the use of lead shot over wetlands. The odd thing is that Ramsar classifies peatland as a “wetland” (so do NE and SNH), but this is simply overlooked when applying interpretation of the regulation?

    I would hazzard a guess that 80%+ of grouse shooting breaks the rules.

    1. Hi Circus,

      In Scotland there is legislation that specifically exempts many grouse moors. It’s the Environmental Protection (Restriction on Use of Lead Shot) (Scotland) (No.2) Regulations 2004, where ‘peatland’ for the purpose of restricting the use of lead shot is defined as ‘only peatlands with visible water’ (Para 3(2)(b)).

      I’m not sure what the situation is in England but I’m pretty sure that the proposed new EU reg uses the Ramsar definition of ‘wetland’ (which will include grouse moors) and hence BASC’s decision to fight it.

      Worth noting that the European Chemical Agency is currently working on a second recommendation that would ban the use of toxic lead ammo from ALL habitats (terrestrial and wetland). You can see this is only going in one direction.

  8. The five year move to a voluntary ban covers not just wetlands but shooting over ALL land and should therfore be welcomed. Shooting wildfowl wigh non toxic shot is already a legal requiement in most parts of the UK. I have already made the switch to steel shot as have many sportsmen who care deeply about the environment.

  9. I’d expect no different from an anti shooting lobby, there’s more lead in the Earth which is turned over every year in fields from natural sources, if you really care about the environment get a ban on granite chippings on driveways and roads, you knew it’s more radioactive ghan Uranium right…

  10. How many tonnes of lead flashing is on the EU HQ and also Westminster and all the Churches, Cathedrals and housing exposed to the air and weather. Rain run-off and dry lead dust right by the local population walking by. Visit any builders supplies and you will see tonnes of it

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