Previous Page  6 / 156 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 6 / 156 Next Page
Page Background


In 1983, Professor Richard Southwood chaired the Royal

Commission on Environmental Pollution’s report on Lead in the

Environment (RCEP 1983). This report resulted from concern

being progressively extended to the possible effects on humans

of lead at ever-decreasing blood concentrations, and the high

level of associated public debate. The report was seminal, and

most of its recommendations have been implemented by

successive governments.

Recommendations included that lead should be phased out of

petrol additives andprogressively reduced inpaint, that research

should continue into the effects of lead at low concentrations,

particularly on children, and that the anthropogenic dispersal of

lead and man’s exposure to it should be reduced further. These

have all now happened. Among other recommendations were

that urgent efforts should be made to develop alternatives

to lead shot and lead fishing weights (to protect wildlife from

unnecessary poisoning), and that as soon as these alternatives

are available, the Government should legislate to ban any

further use of lead shot and fishing weights in circumstances

where they are irretrievably dispersed in the environment. Lead

fishing weights were banned in 1986, and alternatives to lead

gunshot were developed some decades ago. However, only

limited regulations requiring the use of non-toxic shot have been

introduced in the UK, compliance with these remains poor (at

least in England)(Cromie

et al.

2015), and thousands of tonnes of

lead shot continue to be deposited in the environment annually.

Thus, the use of lead ammunition is the remaining significant

source of unregulated dispersal of lead into our environment;

one that presents risks to the health of wildlife and humans

today, and one that builds an ever increasing toxic legacy.

Iwasdelighted tochair theOxfordLeadSymposiuminDecember

2014 and learn more about this important and topical issue.

It is notable that in addition to the extensive evidence reviewed

and presented at this symposium, some 60 experts from

both wildlife and human health disciplines have recently

signed consensus statements on the strength of the science

surrounding risks and impacts of lead from ammunition, and

the need to move to the use of non-toxic alternatives (Group

of Scientists 2013, 2014; Appendix 2). This level of scientific

agreement is impressive, although perhaps not surprising given

the long history of research into the subject.

Several international political imperatives exist for the UK

Government to move towards the use of non-toxic ammunition

(Stroud 2015). These include the African-Eurasian Migratory

Waterbirds Agreement, which required the use of non-toxic shot

in all wetlands by the year 2000 (AEWA 1999), and more recently

the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)(UNEP-CMS 2014).

In November 2014 Contracting Parties to the CMS adopted a

resolution, the guidelines of which recommend the phase out

of all lead ammunition, in all habitats, within three years. Such

Multilateral Environmental Agreements are politically binding

to signatory countries, of which the UK is one, and give a clear

indication of the necessary direction of travel.

The Symposium heard that alternatives to lead ammunition are


available (Gremse and Reiger 2015,Thomas 2015). Alternatives to

lead shot are in use in parts or all of many countries; Denmark for

example required the use of non-toxic gunshot for all shooting

almost 20 years ago (Kanstrup 2015). Alternative bullet types

are already in use in some places, and others, such as California

State, are phasing in their use (Thomas 2015). Several major

landowners and managers in the UK have already taken steps to

phase out lead bullets on their landholdings.

The decisions to be made now are political. The organisations

represented at this symposium stressed that they are not

progressing an anti-shooting agenda, but rather advocating

that shooting sports must act in a sustainable way that does not

put wildlife and human health at risk, especially when such risks

are avoidable. Those with an interest in this topic may wish to

consider the analogies in the protracted debate surrounding

the removal of lead from petrol presented in the European

Environment Agency report ‘Late Lessons from Early Warnings’

(Needleman and Gee 2013).

Although estimates of numbers of birds killed by consuming

lead from ammunition in the UK cannot readily be made with

precision, at least tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of

birds are estimated to die annually from this cause; many more

suffer welfare impacts (Pain

et al.

2015). More recent information,

including that from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA

2010) and the agencies responsible for food safety of a number

of EU countries (including the UK)(Knutsen

et al.

2015) have

already highlighted the risks that frequent game consumption