Shooting and fishing: It is possible that lead shot may be banned down south but remain legal in Scotland

The question of lead shot is coming back to haunt us, not that it ever went away. But it popped up again on Radio 4's Farming Today. A new study has shown that very few people in the south have been paying attention to a law which bans the use of lead shot when shooting ducks and other waterfowl.

Spent lead that falls among reeds and on boggy places may be eaten by wildfowl, which may, I repeat may, die of lead poisoning. (There is science to back everybody's prejudices on this one).

But during the programme Dr Ruth Cromie, head of biology at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust mentioned that there was also "emerging evidence" of a potential danger to human life from eating game that has been shot with lead. Fortunately the man from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation came on to say you would need to eat lead-shot game up to 20 times a week to get anywhere near poisoning yourself.

Hide Ad

To her credit, the interviewer wondered whether this little shard about human health, might not be scare mongering by WWT, a close cousin of the RSPB and no friend of shooting. (Mention human health and politicians lose all sense of proportion.) Time forbad further exploration of this theme.

But game is something eaten mainly by those who kill it or at least know something about it. Most of us delicately park lead shot on the sides of our plates. There is some anecdotal evidence of lead showing up in the appendix of inveterate game gourmets to no ill effect. But it really is not an issue. All the same there is, believe it or not, a DEFRA "lead committee" looking into this. So you can see where this is going. Shooters are ignoring the law and lead is a hazard to human health – total ban recommended. But which side of the Border?

In Scotland we do not specify what species may or may not be shot with lead as they do in the south. Our ban is on its use over lochs and ponds and wet places where it may be a danger to wildfowl if they eat it. If ducks come over during the course of a day's pheasant shooting in woods and fields you are entitled to use lead, unlike in England.

So it is perfectly possible that lead shot may be banned down south but remain legal in Scotland, although given Holyrood's urban mindset I wouldn't bet on it. My guess is that there will eventually be a UK-wide lead ban on grounds of non-compliance by shooters and spurious health arguments which no one dare challenge.

But a lead ban will reduce the currently high cost of non-toxic cartridges as manufacturers compete on price and quality. It will be an annoyance to be sure, it may even be unnecessary. But will it stop or even hinder shooting? Hardly.