The UK’s major shooting organisations have spoken out against a report published by the University of Oxford, which claims that 100,000 wetland birds are killed annually by lead poisoning and recommends a complete ban of all lead ammunition – with “no more than two years” notice for manufacturers and retailers.
The report includes research from university academics, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and the RSPB, who met at the Oxford Lead Symposium last year to discuss the impact of lead on the environment and human health. The report, which has subsequently been decried by the UK’s main shooting organisations, claims that up to three per cent of the wintering population of wildfowl is directly killed by lead poisoning. It also claims that the effect of lead on humans who eat game meat is greater than previously estimated, and that hunters and their representatives are directly endangering those around them.
Professor Ian Newton, in his closing remarks to the report, blames “the attitudes of many hunters and their representatives,” saying: “If it were just hunters who wanted to put only themselves at risk, without affecting other people, domestic livestock or wildlife, it is their choice. But their behaviour does affect other people (including their families and associates).”
He says: “The argument that lead is best, and that alternatives are less good, is no longer tenable.” He goes on to conclude that the only solution is the “mandatory” use of lead-free alternatives – adding that hunters and manufacturers should be given “no more than two years” to prepare for such a ban.
Shooting and hunting organisations have been swift to condemn the report’s lack of scientific integrity.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) released a statement saying the conclusions of the report have been “exaggerated and distorted by quoting selectively from research.”
BASC’s Alan Jarrett said: “BASC has seen nothing to justify extending existing regulations covering lead ammunition. Policymakers should be guided by reliable science, robust evidence and the principles of better regulation; none of these are present in the reports from the Oxford Lead Symposium.”
Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance said most of the research cited in the report was carried out between 1960 and 1983, while current lead restrictions were only implemented in 1999. “It is completely illogical to suggest further restrictions on the use of lead ammunition based on research that was done before existing regulations were put in place,” he said.
The publication of the Oxford Lead Symposium report comes as DEFRA considers the final report from the much-criticised Lead Ammunition Group, which is also expected to take an anti-lead stance.
The full report and proceedings of the Oxford Lead Symposium can be read at www.oxfordleadsymposium.info.