A Defra-funded study, involving BASC, WWT and the CLA, shows that most (344 out of 492, ie 70%) shot ducks bought from gamedealers, supermarkets and butchers are illegally shot with lead ammunition.  This figure is similar to that found in 2002 in a study by WWT and the RSPB - there has been no real progress in the last eight years. 

Quite shockingly, the survey of shooters indicated that most understood the law but nearly half (45%) admitted to breaking the law.  At least this suggests that the 'honest' ones (the 45% who admit to acting illegally) are the best shots (if 70% of ducks have been shot illegally)!

The main reasons given for breaking the law are: small chance of being caught, don't believe that lead is a problem and lead-free ammunition is more expensive or more difficult to obtain than lead ammunition. 

We await the reaction of shooting organisations and the shooting press with interest.  Some shooting organisations have spent quite considerable time and effort communicating to their members on this issue - they must feel very let down.

We also await Defra's reaction.  Minister of State Jim Paice is a keen shot and a former trustee of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.  Defra has just withdrawn its secretarial support from the Lead Ammunition Group that it and the Food Standards Agency set up to look at issues surrounding the (legal) use of lead ammunition concerning human and wildlife health.

  • apologies - misread so thanks !!

  • flavirostris - welcome!  Are you a twite, a mosquito, a black crake, a speckled teal or maybe a greenland white-fronted goose? If the last then I can see you may have a personal interest in this subject.  Thank you for your comments.

  • Interesting debate developing, though the separate issues of

    a)  Compliance with legislation to eliminate the well-established impacts of toxic lead-shot on waterbirds; and

    b)  the potential impacts on human health from lead residues in game shot with lead

    seem to be becoming a bit conflated.  

    In respect of both these issues however, there is a significant body of robust, peer-reviewed science (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/353fv9u).  I always find it a bit depressing when the debate (elsewhere) is around stereotyping organisations: “well, they would say that wouldn’t they?” rather than addressing issues of uncertainty in the science (and of course, what that science means for policy).  There will always be areas where our understanding could be improved and we should be encouraging the commissioning of further research to illuminate these uncertainties.  

    However, the current research from WWT and BASC (randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx) is very impressive in the degree to which it explicitly highlights and discusses all the various assumptions and potential biases that inevitably exist with such a survey.  I’m as impressed by the quality of the science as I am dispirited by the findings...  Let’s hope for a rapid policy response from government – and of course equivalent assessments undertaken in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

  • Bassman - welcome!  Hope you don't mind me correcting your point above.

  • A couple of points.

    Firstly - the survey everyone is going on about is from 2002 - so lets ignore it! [Note added by Mark Avery - No it isn't actually.  It's from 2008/9 and 2009/10 shooting seasons.  So let's not ignore it.] The question is what do they do now?

    Secondly - jamesm makes a very good point.  Wildfowlers who will shoot exclusively over wetland areas will be using non lead shot.  They are well informed and just do it.

    Many of the duck that ends up in butchers etc is from mixed shoots where they have been bred and released to provide alternative 'drives' to pheasant.  I can understand that compliance through those shoots will be less than 100%.

    That's the reason - not an excuse.