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Taking the lead on lead

I am very pleased that this week the Alliance has announced in a joint statement with 8 other organisations with an interest in shooting that: "we wish to see an end to both lead and single-use plastics in ammunition used by those taking all live quarry with shotguns within five years". This is a challenge for those of us who are used to using lead ammunition, for the cartridge manufacturers who make it and for the gun makers whose products fire it, but it is a challenge we must face for the future of shooting.

The reality is that lead is toxic. We have accepted its impact on birds in wetland environments for some time and lead was banned for the shooting of wildfowl in England and Wales 20 years ago. Evidence of its environmental impact outside wetlands, and of the harmful consequences of eating game shot with lead, is growing. Alternatives to lead that are affordable and effective are increasingly available so together we feel it is the right time to make a clear statement about our ambition to see game shooting lead and plastic free by 2025.

I would urge anyone who has not used non-lead ammunition to read our Q&A on lead shot which also links to a detailed factsheet prepared by the Gun Trade Association which deals with some of the more technical issues. From a personal point of view, I have been using steel cartridges for my wildfowling for many years and have found it perfectly effective. Last season I also used Eley's new steel cartridges with a bio-degradable 'eco wad' for much of my game shooting and again found little noticeable difference to lead. These cartridges can be fired out of ordinary nitro proofed guns. For specialist use, such as very high birds, guns which are specifically proofed for steel and high-performance steel cartridges may be required.

The range and availability of alternative cartridges is still limited, for instance there are no steel shells available for 2 ½ inch chambered guns as yet, but the 5-year transition period we have set gives time for the development of a full range of alternatives. The reaction to our announcement on Monday has been overwhelmingly positive with the vast majority of people acknowledging that it is the right decision at the right time, even if many are understandably concerned about finding the right solution for them for the future. I generally avoid making predictions, but in this case, I will break that habit and suggest that in 5 years' time we will be wondering what we were worried about.

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