Is this the beginning of the end for lead in ammunition? That’s the question posed by thisiscornwall.com as it examines the impact of the 1999 African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. The law “outlaws the use of lead shot over all foreshore, specified Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and for the shooting of all ducks and geese, coot and moorhen – wherever they occur.” Steel yourself. This gets bad. “That change caused immediate difficulty for wildfowlers, who had to switch to cartridges loaded with steel shot – similar in price to lead but not suitable for older guns and less effective at range – or highly expensive alloys like bismuth.” Not suitable for older guns as in KABOOM. No matter how you look at it, that’s gonna cost you . . .
The majority [of UK water-fowlers] accepted the change and cartridge manufacturers took up the challenge of replicating the ballistic qualities of lead pellets in shotgun cartridges, but using non-toxic materials. The main result was a drastic increase in the price of cartridges, up from an average of £5 to more than £30 for a box of 25.
That’s some pricey ammo, that is. Farmers’ reps contend that the trebling (and then some) of the price of shotgun shells threatens the landowners’ ability to control pigeons, rabbits and other pests.
More generally, the UK waterfowlers’ silent submission to an EU-wide directive on lead shot shows how far The Land of Hope and Glory has strayed from its independence and hunting traditions. Needless to say, it’s about to get worse.
There’s now a committee—the Lead Ammunition Group—contemplating whether or not Her Majesty’s Government should extend the lead shot ban to shotgunners taking aim at all creatures great and small, wherever they may be. Environmental and anti-hunt groups depending on non-independent science are [non-goose] down with that.
The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, a member of the group, broke ranks last week and put out its own research alleging duck, swan and geese are still dying from ingesting lead and calling for an all out ban on lead shot, not just on wetlands, but everywhere.
Under a hard-hitting headline: “Stop lead poisoning our birds” over a picture of a swan, the charity, which has Prince Charles as its patron and was founded by wildfowler turned naturalist Sir Peter Scott, published what it claims is damning research which shows current restrictions on the use of lead shot aren’t working.
It concludes: “Recent WWT research found a third of tested waterbirds had lead levels in their blood indicative of lead poisoning. Additionally, the disease was responsible for the deaths of 1 in 10 birds found dead over the last four decades, with no measurable changes following introduction of legislation.”
As the kerfuffle continues, shooting sports groups want to be clear: they’re not going to take it. Oh wait. They are.
The British Association of Shooting and Conservation, a prime mover in the Lead Ammunition Group is acutely aware of the need for the shooting fraternity to obey the rules as they currently exist regarding the use of non-toxic shot. Its advice on the BASC website reads: “Whatever we think of the regulations, they are now law. As responsible members of the shooting community it is not only an obligation but in our interest to comply with them.
“Refusal to comply will hasten the day of a total ban on lead shot. However remote the risk of prosecution may seem, anybody prosecuted could lose his or her shotgun certificate. when shooting over water.”
Fair enough, I guess, but I reckon their compliance will have zero impact on the looking-very-likely ban on lead ammo. And at what point do you draw the line?