“We don’t have five years to get rid of lead [ammunition]”, says Waitrose spokesperson

Last year Waitrose became the first (and only?) supermarket to ban the sale of gamebirds that have been shot with toxic lead ammunition (see here).

It was a bold move but one that was welcomed across the conservation sector.

Meanwhile, after years of consistently defending the use of toxic lead ammunition (e.g. here’s a classic example from one of the industry’s ‘figureheads’ (ahem) claiming that concerns were “nonsense”), in February this year a suite of shooting organisations announced that they wanted to promote a voluntary ban on the use of toxic lead ammunition and see an end to its use within five years. They had clearly seen the writing on the wall and decided to jump before they were pushed, although according to a statement from the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust (WWT), a group that’s been at the forefront of campaigning against lead ammunition for a very long time,

While the transition to lead-free ammunition is a positive move forward, conservationists stress that previous voluntary bans have been unsuccessful and without policy change at government level, there will still be risks to human health, wildlife and the market for game birds. A full restriction will contribute to the further removal of poisonous lead from our environment‘.

And not every shooting organisation was in support of even a voluntary ban. Those doyens of scientific research, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, refused to sign up with the other shooting organisations because, they claimed, the impacts of lead “must be better studied” (see here). The irony of that statement wasn’t lost on any of us.

And just to confuse matters further, just last month the UK shooting industry as a whole stated it was to fight a new forthcoming EU regulation restricting the use of toxic lead ammunition on wetlands (see here).

It’s with some interest then that  John Gregson, senior manager of agri-food communications at Waitrose, gave a very strong presentation at the GWCT’s recent Game 2020 Conference on the company’s stance on lead shot.

This video is well worth watching. Aside from positioning himself as a former editor of the Shooting Times, and switching between talking about himself as a member of the shooting industry and as a Waitrose spokesperson, presumably to allay any fears amongst his audience that he might be perceived/smeared/dismissed as being ‘anti-shooting’, Gregson gives a compelling argument about why the shooting industry MUST drop the use of toxic lead ammunition ASAP – he argues that “we don’t have five years to get rid of lead“.

It was also good to hear him speak well of several scientists (namely Drs Debbie Pain and Rhys Green) who have worked for decades to demonstrate the no-brainer notion that toxic lead ammunition has to go.

Will the shooting industry listen?

Here’s the 25 minute video:

14 thoughts on ““We don’t have five years to get rid of lead [ammunition]”, says Waitrose spokesperson”

  1. “By the 2020-21 shooting season, all Waitrose’s game will be “brought to bag” without the use of lead ammunition.” Is the quote from the Guardian article that you reference. But, all the game products on sale in Waitrose today have warning labels saying that they may contain lead! You might want to quiz them on this!

  2. I used to use Waitrose myself, and found more diversity in their rages that is apparent in other supermarkets.
    I wonder if the lead labelling is because some of the game is imported. I know that in the spring and summer months the venison is imported from New Zealand, as it is not in season in Britain at this time.
    I haven’t tried the game birds, precisely because of the lead in the shot, and having realised through this site that often the lead is already in the environment and being picked up by the birds in order to grind down their food, it puts me off to realise that should I buy a bird, it could already have a lead burden, even before shooting.
    I used to enjoy rabbit, but it seems to have disappeared from the shelves in recent years, shot or farmed. Unfortunately, where I now live, in South Wales, there are fewer than nine Waitrose Stores.
    The presentation was good, very informative.

    1. In many areas, wild rabbits are no longer common. As well as myxomatosis, populations have been much reduced by two versions of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic disease. The presence of rabbits in the countryside is not missed by farmers but wildflower-rich grasslands are suffering from significant scrub encroachment as a consequence of their decline

  3. Well done John Gregson. There’s another elephant in the room though. I don’t believe there will ever be enough game produced as wild game to make it worth a supermarket’s while to stock it as anything other than a ‘luxury’ product. If the science begins to show that game birds are causing significant damage to wild native species it will no longer be acceptable or sustainable for so many millions of game birds to continue to be released into the wild.

    1. Perhaps Waitrose will subsequently look into sustainability and more general green issues. For comparison ISTR they have moved to entirely free-range eggs, and are looking to avoid dubious US products.

  4. The Duke of Cambridge would not want his children to be poisoned with lead shot so his new position as patron of BTO may be a platform he may choose to use. I can only guess that he and Kate choose to blast birds out of the sky with other lead-free ammunition.

  5. There will be ethically-minded bank robbers who will switch to non-toxic cartridges before the shooting elite do so. I think there is a long way to go before a law is passed, and even longer before it is enforced in the field.

  6. An excellent presentation. This talk has extra punch as it was delivered by “one of their own” – a proponent of shooting. I would love to have heard the reaction of the audience and the questions and discussion following the presentation.

  7. Nearly all old shotguns are not proofed for steel shot, making them obselete, if lead is banned, I own 4 shotguns,most of them have not been used for years, all of which will not take steel shot. Steel shot is also more expensive, but its going to come in, theres no doubt about it. Good presentation.

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