Lead by ex­am­ple

The Coun­try­side Al­liance gives us the in­side scoop on the West­min­ster Hall lead de­bate. Just one topic prompted unity amongst at­ten­dees – the im­por­tance of ad­her­ing to the ex­ist­ing re­stric­tions

Sporting Shooter - - Campaigning For The Countryside -

In De­cem­ber, Ger­ald Jones, the Labour MP for Merthyr Tyd­fil and Rhym­ney, se­cured a one-hour West­min­ster Hall de­bate on ‘us­age of lead shot in am­mu­ni­tion’. Even the ti­tle of this dis­cus­sion was odd in that it seemed to ex­clude dis­cus­sion of lead bul­lets, but given that Mr Jones had never pre­vi­ously shown any in­ter­est in shoot­ing, it may just have been a mis­un­der­stand­ing.

He read out his open­ing state­ment from a script which sounded re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to the pub­lic state­ments made by the RSPB and the Wild­fowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT). In­deed, it was no­tice­able that there were more staff from those two or­gan­i­sa­tions in at­ten­dance than the three MPs (in­clud­ing Mr Jones) who were will­ing to ar­gue for fur­ther re­stric­tions on lead am­mu­ni­tion. It is in­creas­ingly sad to wit­ness two or­gan­i­sa­tions that do so much bril­liant con­ser­va­tion work give such pri­or­ity to a cam­paign which is, at least in part, clearly mo­ti­vated by an an­tipa­thy to shoot­ing as a whole.

A num­ber of MPs, led by the Coun­try­side Al­liance’s Chair­man Si­mon Hart, ar­gued forcibly that there was no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for a ban on lead am­mu­ni­tion. Si­mon de­clared an un­usual in­ter­est in the de­bate by stat­ing the fact that he was “prob­a­bly the only Mem­ber who has been shot by a lead car­tridge… It was about 35 years ago and I still carry 20 lead pel­lets in my left knee,” adding that “col­leagues will judge whether that has af­fected my phys­i­cal or men­tal state.”

Charles Walker MP stated that “Tungsten, bis­muth and hevi-shot cost five to seven times as much as lead. A sig­nif­i­cant part of most peo­ple’s shoot­ing bud­get.” Jim Shan­non MP brought his ex­pe­ri­ence of shoot­ing and wild­fowl­ing in North­ern Ire­land to the de­bate, ar­gu­ing that at­tempts to ban lead am­mu­ni­tion are “un­just and un­fair, and high­light the way in which sci­ence can be used and ma­nip­u­lated to suit a political agenda.”

Rishi Su­nak MP and Ge­of­frey Clifton-Brown MP ar­gued that ev­i­dence on the im­pact of lead am­mu­ni­tion in the UK has failed to pass rig­or­ous aca­demic scru­tiny, and that the risks have been ex­ag­ger­ated. They also stated that a ban on lead would have se­ri­ous and un­quan­ti­fied im­pli­ca­tions for the gun trade, the ru­ral econ­omy and the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. Alex Cun­ning­ham MP, a shadow Defra Min­is­ter, was forced to con­cede that there was no ev­i­dence in the UK of any pre­ma­ture death caused by lead am­mu­ni­tion, which prompted Si­mon Hart to sug­gest that “un­less he [Cun­ning­ham] can come up with that ev­i­dence, he is do­ing noth­ing more than mis­chief-mak­ing.”

Ge­orge Eus­tice MP re­sponded for the govern­ment and stated that since half of the Lead Am­mu­ni­tion Group mem­bers had re­signed, “we are there­fore in a po­si­tion in which we have no ex­pert con­sen­sus about the im­pact of lead am­mu­ni­tion on wildlife or hu­man health.” He did, how­ever, ac­knowl­edge that cur­rent com­pli­ance lev­els with ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion were dis­ap­point­ing. This is not a mat­ter of de­bate and is some­thing that all speak­ers agreed on. Ad­her­ence with the cur­rent re­stric­tions for shoot­ing wild­fowl and shoot­ing over wetlands is non-ne­go­tiable. Us­ing lead shot in con­tra­ven­tion of the reg­u­la­tions is not only en­vi­ron­men­tally dam­ag­ing, but also risks the fu­ture use of lead am­mu­ni­tion for all shoot­ing. None of us should think that it is ac­cept­able, ei­ther per­son­ally or from those who we shoot with.

The de­bate showed very clearly that the MPs ar­gu­ing for the con­tin­ued sta­tus quo on lead shot have per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence in the field of shoot­ing; on the other hand, the op­pos­ing speak­ers have lim­ited ex­pe­ri­ence and, it seems, have been per­suaded to join in on this sci­ence-heavy de­bate. It is also ob­vi­ous that the lead am­mu­ni­tion de­bate is highly con­vo­luted, and is by no means able to be dis­cussed fully in a one-hour slot. The re­sult of the con­tin­ued de­bate is not as easy as ‘ban lead am­mu­ni­tion’ or ‘keep lead am­mu­ni­tion’, as two re­cent e-pe­ti­tions made it out to be. There are is­sues with lead am­mu­ni­tion; th­ese is­sues have been seen in the UK in swans, and in other coun­tries, for ex­am­ple Cal­i­for­nian con­dors in Amer­ica, and hun­ters’ con­sump­tion in Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries.

For the Coun­try­side Al­liance it is only once th­ese known is­sues have been sci­en­tif­i­cally shown that the con­ver­sa­tion should move to­wards mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures and, po­ten­tially, fur­ther reg­u­la­tions (as is be­ing cur­rently shown in Cal­i­for­nia). There is no need for a call to ban all lead am­mu­ni­tion, and that is why the RSPB and the WWT’s call to do so can only be de­scribed as an anti-shoot­ing is­sue, not anti-lead.

‘The re­sult of the de­bate is not as easy as ‘ban lead am­mu­ni­tion’ or ‘keep lead am­mu­ni­tion’, as two re­cent e-pe­ti­tions

made it out to be’

Is­sues with lead am­mu­ni­tion have been seen in swans in the UK

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