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Report for parliamentary group concludes that ban on lead shot can be achieved by 2024

21 September 2022

A full phase out of lead shot for hunting could be achieved by 2024, which would prevent tens of thousands of wild birds being poisoned each year and stop the toxic substance reaching game meat in stores and restaurants. With a readily available wide range of non-toxic alternatives on sale in Great Britain – most as cheap or cheaper than lead – this harmful product can and should be consigned to the history books. This is the conclusion of a new report released today (21st September), researched by Wildlife & Countryside Link and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Lead Ammunition.

The report (Lead Ammunition APPG technical report - Alternatives to lead shot: assessing supply and demand) details that around 20% of shot cartridges on sale online from leading manufacturers in Britain are already non-toxic, with a range of new non-toxic shot products for hunting coming on stream over the past two years. This increase in supply has likely been fuelled by a range of pledges to stop selling meat from gamebirds shot with lead from supermarkets, by a voluntary commitment to phase-out lead from shooting organisations and by the development of proposals to legally restrict the use of lead ammunition in the UK and EU. The experience of EU countries including Denmark and the Netherlands suggests that the implementation of restrictions is likely to lead to further swift increases in supply.

Today’s report comes as The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) consults on a proposed restriction on lead ammunition, after identifying through the UK REACH process that its use poses an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment. The consultation proposals include a ban on the sale and use of lead shot cartridges in hunting, with a phase out period of 18 months. The Government is expected to make a decision on the proposals in 2023, suggesting that any ban on lead shot could be in force by late 2024.

Lord Browne of Ladyton, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Lead Ammunition said: 
‘‘The environmental, welfare and human health grounds for a lead shot ban are overwhelming, as recognised by the Health and Safety Executive’s proposals. We reject the idea of toxic substances in our food usually, meat from gamebirds should be no exception. Today’s report shows that the supply of non-toxic shot for hunting is increasing and is likely to grow yet faster following the announcement of regulation. With the evidence clear, the Government should get on and swiftly deliver a ban by the end of 2024, to stop lead shot polluting our environment, poisoning animals and risking the health of people who eat game."

Matt Browne, Head of Policy & Advocacy at Wildlife & Countryside Link said:
“Lead shot pollution is a clear, but avoidable, risk to both human and wildlife health. We’ve banned lead in the paint on our walls and the pipes that supply our water for decades, so why are we still allowing lead to pollute our countryside. With cheaper, non-toxic alternatives out there, and the market already shifting, today’s report shows there are no excuses to delay a ban on this outdated product.’’

Dr. Julia Newth, Ecosystem Health & Social Dimensions Manager at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, said:
‘‘We’re encouraging everyone who wants to see the end of a toxic pollutant contaminating our countryside and poisoning our wildlife, to make their voice heard by going to the UK REACH website and submitting their comments by 6 Nov. This is where people can make their views count to make the recommendation for a complete legal ban on sale and use of lead shot a reality.’’

Notes for editors:

  • Read the full report Lead Ammunition APPG technical report - Alternatives to lead shot: assessing supply and demand here
  • Lead shot risks harm to both human and wildlife health. Lead pollution from ammunition kills up to 100,000 waterbirds each year in the UK alone, with birds ingesting spent lead pellets left in habitats. A further 200,000 - 400,000 birds are left suffering the health impacts of lead poisoning including lower resistance to disease and reduced ability to breed successfully. A recent study by The University of Cambridge found that pheasant meat sold for food is likely to expose consumers to toxic lead, even if the shotgun pellets are carefully removed.
  • At least 2,000 tonnes of toxic lead shot used for game and pest shooting is left in our countryside annually. Despite there being some current restrictions on the use of lead shot in wetlands in the UK, field testing in England by WWT shows the proportion of birds affected by lead shot poisoning has not significantly decreased since legislation was introduced.
  • The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Lead Ammunition was formed in June 2022 and works to raise parliamentary awareness of the negative impacts of lead ammunition use on human and animal health, wildlife conservation and the wider environment. The APPG is supported by Wildlife & Countryside Link and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, more information can be found at:
  • Today’s report draws on data collected from GB ammunition suppliers in early August 2022, and a series of international studies.

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