Monday 3 May 2010

Ramping up the pressure on lead

Just a week after the first meeting of the Lead Ammunition Group, I see the group's RSPB representative Mark Avery is already ramping up his campaign against lead shot and bullets, with a 'concerned' post on his blog.

Rather like the scientific papers he refers to, his post is full of 'suggests' this, 'maybe' that and 'I wonder' the other. The papers imply causal links without proper methodology. Kids with slightly higher lead levels are thicker than average... did anyone check whether they also happen to come from poorer families, where a) environmental exposure to eg lead paint may be higher, and b) educational performance may be lower for reasons other than lead? The 'science' doesn't say. It just leaves the implied accusation hanging in the air.

Fact is, everything is toxic. Salt, grass, tofu, carrots and lettuce leaves will all kill you if you eat enough of it. We don't run around in a panic, because it's a potential problem, not a real one. As we get better at measuring tiny amounts of this and that, any hobby-horse scare that attracts funding can be whipped up into a full-blown panic, because you'll never get a scientist to say anything is 100% safe.

Yes, we should take a good, objective look at lead ammunition, just in case it's more of a problem than we thought. But we're going to have to look very hard indeed to find gamekeepers or their kids lying around dead and injured because they ate too much partridge!

Which reminds me, I must look into what happened to T-shot [pdf]. That's the treatment that wraps up lead shot in a Teflon-like coat. Last I heard it was looking promising - and if it prevents lead getting into game meat at all, well it would scupper Mark Avery's argument. Or would it? I sometimes wonder where the RSPB are really going with this.

Talking of which, I see that the RSPB are looking to get their mitts on "well over a million hectares" of Britain via their new Futurescapes initiative, due to be launched in June [UPDATE 4 May: a Futurescapes page has just appeared on the RSPB website]. Not content with running their reserves and badgering the rest of us on how to be nice to birds, they want to control huge areas of the country without going to all the bother and expense of actually buying them.

I have a mental image of Mark Avery stroking a white cat and smirking "Mwahaha, you see Mr Bond, not even you can stop my plan for world domination!"

An RSPB spokesman yesterday


The Suburban Bushwacker said...


If anyone is concerned about lead in their children's diet the likely source of contamination would have to be lead pipework, there's still loads of it in affluent north london, god knows how much there is in the poorer areas of the country. Surely lead contamination from clay grounds is insignificant in comparison? There must also me considerable amounts in the topsoil from the years of leaded petrol fumes?

This is scaremongering by the anti shooting lobby pure and simple.
SBW AKA London's Gentleman Plumber.

Vicky said...

From what I read an understand the biggest risks from heavy metal toxicity come from agriculatural land near to industrial centres. Several traditional chinese herbs have had scares in the past due to industrial contanimation- not from shooting!
Lead IS a problem over wetlands; it's not good for wading birds to eat lead shot. But has it actually been shown that lead can leach into soil from shot? (I can understand how it could from lead in exhaust gases)And if it does leach into soil does it actualy ge taken into plants? This is where the risk lies- if anywhere. Fragments in game birds seem pretty unlikely to cause toxicity to me.

Sooty said...

Wonder if perhaps RSPB have done this to avoid a law suit if someone prove lead had harmed them which makes me wonder that although i see most of your points would the shooting syndicate be liable if someone could prove that the lead in the game had damaged them.

James Marchington said...

Ah yes, I remember the days we used to laugh at those stupid Americans and their culture of risk aversion and litigation. It could never happen here...

And then it did.

Fire up the Quattro, I'm going back to the 80s!

Vicky said...

I remember a lecture on cancer and what triggers it from my first year at college. 'Everything' said the lecturer, 'is a potential carcinogen.' Our bodies meet and deal with myriad foreign substances every day, that's called life! For someone to sue the RSPB or a shoot there would have to be EVIDENCE that the lead was harmful, EVIDENCE that the organisation knew this and EVIDENCE that it was lead from hat source, not from general polluction which caused the 'illness' surely? The alcohol used to wash down the pheasan dinner is far more dangerous than the lead in the pheasant. But if e switch to stell- boy will that crack a tooth.

Sooty said...

Hi Vicky maybe I am missing something or even in this case a bit dim but am intriged by what Vicky was going to say on a previous blog that seems you were putting on April 30th think James blog about shooters being good conservationists.

James Marchington said...

Indeed they are Sooty, the very best! Check out this post on the Gamekeeping & Conservation blog - and while you're there, follow the links in the sidebar to the BASC Green Shoots programme and the PACEC report. If only someone could crack the problem of explaining this paradox to the general public, we'd be sorted!

Sooty said...

Hi James it must be a fact so would not argue but it always seems strange that it is really a by product of shooting that is beneficial as opposed to the primary intent,not that it really matters as the end result is the same.Personally do not like shooting but am not blind to the benefits and it certainly is sometimes the best answer.As far as getting it over to the general public think a relatively few who commit wildlife crimes whether proven or not give rise as in all things to a lot of bad publicity and indeed to over reaction such as one respected person wanting all shooting banned.As I am not paid by any organisation I can say that I hope your moderate views about raptors and shoots co-existing stands the best chance to bring success for both sides.especially though you seem modest your views I would guess have quite a influece on what shooting people think.

vicky said...

Yup, we shooters are a big conundrum! Heck, I agree with almost everything the Green Party says- except it would stop me shooting my supper and we didn't have a candidate anyway!
I have no doubt that if the lead from our shot was shown to be doing real harm to the environment we love then no legislation would be needed to stop us using it. It's just we know the RSPB doesn't like us much and fear it'll use any scrap of semi-science to get rid of us.

Sooty said...

Always interesting to get other views,had not realised shooting people thought the RSPB against them except of course when illegal killing takes place which is probably done by a small minority and does get the shooting people bad publicity obviously,think James pointed out that 4 of the finalists for the award from the RSPB last year were farmers who had shoots,hope he will correct me if I am wrong.Would like to think most RSPB members were only against the killing of raptors.The forms of shooting that are legal there seems little point in objecting especially if the shooting people stop illegal killing.

Meconopsis said...

Just as we say goodbye to Labour a number of shooting people and clubs including my own company are now shifting from BASC.

Lastnight I spoke with the Chairman of a large wildfowling club in the Cumbria area and he has asked all members to join the National Gamekeepers Association.

Tonight another friend informed me that John Humphreys the columnist for Shooting times has cancelled his subscription.

BASC I know you read this blog. Now is the time to come out and tell your members what you are going to do to save the use of lead.

I fear if you do not do something imminently your membership will crash and the flash cars and huge salaries will go.

Anonymous said...

Aiden Lonergan, who used to be the director of rspb in Northern Ireland is now running Futurescapes. His nickname was Aiden Who in the RSPB office in Northern Ireland.

Did you see the editorial in the Country life this week all about RSPB