Following the RSPB’s and WWT’s witty open letter to shooting organisations to join them in a call for a ban on the use of toxic lead shotgun ammunition in the UK, the Countryside Alliance have rapidly responded. Their response isn’t quite so joke-laden, and amounts to a leaden ‘No, won’t!’. Quelle surprise!

The Countryside Alliance attempts to recycle the main joke in the WWT/RSPB open letter;

The RSPB and WWT are right to acknowledge in their letter the considerable efforts being made by shooting organisations to raise awareness of and debunk myths around the transition away from lead ammunition

…but it wasn’t really funny the first time and it isn’t funny now.

Actually, the Countryside Alliance response, it must be said (well I’m saying it anyway), looks on the face of it to be a professional response. They are right to say that there is a process in place, set up by the UK government, to assess lead ammunition and the CA make it clear that they are engaging with it in a serious way. They will be and so will others in the shooting industry. They’ll be trying to weaken and delay any restraints on the use of lead ammunition and they will probably have assigned different roles to different organisations. That’s my guess anyway, and you can see evidence of that in what they wrote. These phrases;

1. …their failure to acknowledge the substantial challenges involved in moving away from lead shot and single-use plastics is disappointing

2. These recommendations may well … move towards a statutory ban on lead ammunition alongside derogations to cover circumstances when it is not yet feasible.

3. …significant progress has been made towards the transition despite the clear and obvious difficulties created for cartridge manufacturers and others by the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit

4. Shooting organisations are committed to working alongside the regulator to ensure that restriction proposals are robustly scrutinised, evidence-led and, most importantly, proportionate to any identified risk with appropriate transition periods to allow manufacturers the time to scale-up production of viable alternatives to lead.

These four points can be summarised as; 1, it’s more difficult than you think, 2, we’re not keen on a complete ban we’ll be looking for let-outs and loopholes from our mates in government, 3, we’re on it, but it’s more difficult than you think and 4, we’ll be arguing the toss about every single point in order to minimise change. Or, at least, that’s how I read them.

It is notable, but not the least bit surprising, that the CA ignores completely the evidence in the WWT/RSPB letter which points out that in the real world, after two years of all that effort by the shooters, there is no reduction in the use of lead ammunition as measured by lumps of lead in game meat on sale to the public. Unless the shooting industry is deliberately saving its toxic lead ammunition solely to shoot into meat that goes into the human food chain then this indicates that practically all game shooting uses toxic lead ammunition. We know that compliance with the law on wildfowl shooting, where using lead ammunition is already illegal, is poor, so it comes as no surprise that a voluntary initiative from shooters has no impact whatsoever.

You could use this little exchange as a case study of why the bad guys, in which I include the CA, so often win. The CA pretends that it wants change in the same way that Vladimir Putin says he wants world peace, but that doesn’t mean they really do, and every time you look, their actions appear to conflict with their words. This is the same industry that says it wants greenhouse gas emissions reduced, but burns blanket bogs, and says it loves raptors to bits, but kills them, and says it wants Woodcock to be protected from unsustainable shooting (more on that later) but doesn’t do anything about it. Talking an industry out of its own selfish interests doesn’t work, and that is why to a large extent, the CA is right to brush off the WWT/RSPB letter as grand-standing, even though the CA does it all the time. Even treating an industry, whether it be the fossil fuel industry, fisheries, agriculture or shooting as though they are working towards the public good is a waste of time. Where has it worked?

No, one has to ignore them and go straight to the decision-makers in government and get change imposed on the industry. I hope that WWT and RSPB are doing that, they probably are a bit, but the industry will treat it as a very high priority – it’s core to their business whereas WWT could easily be distracted by visitor numbers to its centres this coming Easter and the RSPB by sales of bird food. Vested interests are not easily distracted by other issues and they don’t fight fair either.

I’m on the side of WWT and the RSPB, I just wonder whether they are really giving it their best shot (apologies!). Our wildlife conservation organisations have lost their campaigning knack and zeal. To get political action, which clearly lead ammunition restrictions are, because they require government action, one needs not to suggest to an industry that they should do the right thing but mobilise public pressure for government to make that industry do the right thing. I don’t recall WWT or RSPB mobilising their memberships on this issue…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>