Two years ago today, nine UK game-shooting organisations made a massive U-turn after years and years and years of defending the use of toxic lead ammunition, and said they wanted to drag the industry into the 21st Century by making a five-year voluntary transition away from lead ammunition (see here).
A lot of us were sceptical because (a) we rarely trust anything the industry tells us; (b) previous ‘voluntary bans’ by the industry on a number of issues have been unsuccessful (e.g. see here, here and here); (c) 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; (d) the Scottish Gamekeepers Association refused to sign up to the proposed five-year transition period because they believe there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that lead can have damaging impacts on humans, wildlife and the environment (here); and (e) in the very same year that nine shooting organisations committed to the five-year transition, BASC announced it was set to fight a proposed EU ban on the use of lead ammunition on wetlands (see here).
Fortunately for us, a new project has been established to monitor the professed voluntary five-year transition from toxic lead to non-lead ammunition in the UK. Called SHOT-SWITCH, the project intends to test wild-shot pheasants offered for sale across Britain each year and determine if they have been killed using toxic lead or non-lead shotgun ammunition. Interestingly, the project is supported by funds from the RSPB, Waitrose (who you’ll recall were the first supermarket to be heading towards a ban on selling game meat shot with lead ammunition (see here, but who seem to have been duped by the shooting industry this season – here) and Lincolnshire Game.
To find out more about the SHOT-SWITCH project please visit the webpage here
[Lead shot pellets removed from a pheasant carcass. Photo by Rhys Green]
Last year, exactly one year after the shooting organisations’ announcement that the industry would make a five-year voluntary transition to non-toxic shot, scientists from the Shot Switch Project published research that showed of 180 pheasant carcasses examined from the 2020/2021 shooting season and found to contain shot, 179 of them had been shot with lead ammunition (99.4%).
Today, exactly two years after the shooting organisations’ announcement, the Shot Switch scientists have published another paper showing that of 215 pheasant carcasses examined from the 2021/2022 shooting season and found to contain shot, 214 of them had been shot with lead ammunition (99.5%).
And although the paper documents significant efforts made by at least two shooting organisations to educate their members (GWCT and BASC), it’s clear that they’re being ignored. You only have to read the letters pages of Shooting Times to see that, two years on, some shooters are still raging about what they see as an imposed ban and are refusing to engage. There’s even a new campaign group called ‘Save Our Lead Shot’!!
That’s hardly a surprise since the shooting organisations have spent decades arguing for lead ammunition and refusing to accept the toxic threat it poses to humans and wildlife. They only U-turned in 2020 because they could see the bans being implemented in Europe and knew it was only a matter of time before the UK followed. The industry wanted to be seen as responsible, forward-thinking and capable of self-regulation.
That’s not going so well, is it?