by Tim Bonner

Whilst demand for game continues to grow, and it is seen as an exciting growth market by some of the biggest retailers in the country, the sale of game shot with lead ammunition has become increasingly problematic. Waitrose announced nearly two years ago that it was moving to non-lead shot game and other retailers have been following its lead. It was, therefore, no surprise that the National Game Dealers Association (NGDA) announced this week that it is committed to sourcing all feather and fur game from lead-free supply chains from 1st July 2022. As a result, any shoots or stalkers supplying NGDA members will have to switch to non-lead ammunition after that date.

While NGDA members process a significant proportion of game shot in the UK, the majority of pheasants and partridges are still exported to the continent where, as yet, there is no requirement to supply non-lead shot game. That may well change, however, especially as an EU ban on the use of lead ammunition approaches. 

The inevitability of retailers moving away from lead shot game was a significant factor in the decision made by shooting organisations last year to announce a voluntary five-year transition away from lead shot for live quarry shooting. As we commented with our partner organisations in response to the NGDA announcement, a strong game market and acceptance of game meat will mean a strong future for shooting. The continued use of lead shot has become a growing obstacle for the game market. 

The most important point is that no-one has anything to fear from this announcement. It is a significant, but expected, part of the transition away from lead towards the adoption of sustainable ammunition for game and live quarry shooting. Those shoots that will be supplying non-lead game to NGDA members in the 2022/23 season have time to source alternative cartridges and adapt to their use. The options for sustainable ammunition are growing and the NGDA announcement will also send a clear signal to ammunition manufacturers and importers that they can have confidence in the level of demand for sustainable ammunition over coming years. 

There is a simple choice as far as lead ammunition is concerned. We can look at the move away from lead as a positive one, which protects the game market, boosts shooting’s environmental credentials and puts it on a more sustainable footing, or we can fight a battle which we know we will lose, for a substance which is both problematic and replaceable. The game dealers’ announcement only confirms again that we have made the right choice in pro-actively planning a non-lead future for game shooting.

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