The Lead Ammunition Group (LAG) was formed following a request by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in 2010 to investigate the potential impact of lead ammunition on the health of humans, livestock and wildlife. The group was made up of various stakeholders, including the Countryside Alliance to represent the shooting interests, and was tasked with compiling the evidence and making recommendations.

The LAG organised a Primary Evidence Subgroup to collate all the available evidence, ranking it importance to the discussion, and produce three risk assessments on the use of lead ammunition to human health, livestock and wildlife. In the end four risk assessments were submitted, as a result of two wildlife reports being submitted. Whilst the risk assessment on livestock was agreed on by the full group, none of the three other reports were. Following an impasse, stakeholders from the CLA, National Game Dealers Association, Gun Trade Association and Countryside Alliance resigned from the group, stating that the risks attributed to lead ammunition were being exaggerated by certain members of the group and that their voices were not being heard.

Two reports were submitted to Defra, one by a far smaller Lead Ammunition Group led primary by the RSPB and WWT and the other by this newly formed break-away group. In response to the LAG report the Secretary of State, Lizz Truss MP, said:

Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your hard work over the last five years. Please also pass on my thanks to all those that have played a part in bringing together the report and the information on which it is based.

It was disappointing that a number of Group members resigned and that a whole group consensus could not therefore be reached on this important issue. However I fully appreciate the challenges the divergence of opinions with the Group presented you with.

Following receipt of your report, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) sought independent scientific advice from the Committee on Toxicity about the human health risk assessment within it. This has led the FSA to conclude that the evidence provided in your report does not affect their current advice. This advice, which has been in place since 202, states:

‘To minimise the risk of lead intake, people who frequently eat lead-shot game, particularly small game, should cut down their consumption. This advice is especially important for vulnerable groups such as toddlers and children, pregnant women and women trying for a baby.’

With regard to the impact of lead ammunition on wildlife, we note that the report does not provide evidence of causation linking possible impacts of lead ammunition with sizes of bird populations in England.

In both instances – human health and wildlife – the report did not show that the impacts of lead ammunition were significant enough to justify changing current policy; we therefore so not accept your recommendation to ban the use of lead ammunition.

The use of lead ammunition is already banned on all foreshores, certain SSSIs and for the shooting of all ducks, geese, coot and moorhen. I do, however, recognise that there appears to be an issue with poor compliance with the Lead Shot Regulations and I can confirm that Defra will look at how the existing Regulations on wildfowling can be better implemented. We also understand that the FSA will be considering if action is required to raise awareness of their advice amongst the at-risk population.

As you know the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has been asked by the European Commission to gather information on the potential risks presented by metallic lead, to establish if there is a case for regulating its use within eh European Union; we will keep the evidence presented by the ECHA under review.

As agreed when the Group was initiated your report will be published in LAG’s website. I appreciate that you are keen to publish your report and invite you to do so following receipt of this letter.

Although this marks the end of the Group which the Government established in 2010, I have no doubt that the evidence you have gathered together will form a useful input to the exercise the ECHA is taking forward. I would like to thank you again for your efforts.

From the Countryside Alliance’s perspective, we believe Defra made the correct decision. The LAG was a useful asset for collating the scientific evidence, it is paramount that lead ammunition and lead alternatives are continued to be studied to ensure that no net negative impacts are seen. If or when lead ammunition is found to be causing a net negative impact then we as responsible shooters should look positively at alternative ammunition.

The Agreed Findings and Recommendations Report can be read here

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