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Tim Bonner: Phasing out lead shot - One year on

A year ago a group of organisations representing the whole of the game shooting world, including the Countryside Alliance, announced that we wished to see an end to both lead and single-use plastics in ammunition within five years.

The issue of lead toxicity, combined with the inevitability of further restrictions on its use and the development of effective non-toxic cartridges with biodegradable wads had come together to make this announcement both necessary and possible.

A year on from that announcement the transition towards sustainable ammunition has made significant progress despite the turmoil and uncertainty created by Covid-19.

The arrival of new, effective, field tested products in the marketplace covering a range of shooting scenarios is the first step in in the changeover and many people have, as far as the shooting season allowed, used new cartridges to great effect on all species of live quarry. The Government has also shown support for the transition away from the use of lead, indicating that this sort of self-regulation and progression should prevent more punitive legislation in the future.

From a personal point of view I have been using steel ammunition for many years to shoot wildfowl, but the arrival of steel cartridges with biodegradable wads has been a game changer, not least for my conscience which has been calmed by the knowledge that I have not been using single-use plastic wads. I have also been using steel on game for the last two seasons through a 50-year-old Spanish side by side and a modern 20 bore and can honestly say that the ammunition works perfectly effectively for all the purposes I have put it to. The work undertaken by cartridge manufacturers to help secure a successful transition has been particularly helpful.

I would encourage everyone who shoots to try non-lead ammunition over the summer and next game season. Take some advice from your gunsmith, but essentially unless your gun has Damascus barrels or is tightly choked there will be a suitable steel cartridge available.

The pandemic has inevitably slowed progress, but the developments in ammunition, evidence from patterning and penetration trials, and the willingness of our community to learn about effective alternatives continues to keep us on a steady path to transition.

Meanwhile, the EU has agreed regulations that will prohibit the use of lead ammunition in and around wetlands with a two-year transition. The Scottish Government has said that it will voluntarily adopt these regulations. Full prohibition in the EU seems certain to follow with the European Chemicals Agency having brought forward proposals for a full ban on lead ammunition with a five-year transition period.

Last year's announcement maintained the position of game shooting at the forefront of sustainable land management and wildlife conservation. Delivering the transition will help secure its future.

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