Wednesday 19 May 2010

The truth beind the Lead Ammunition Group

The Lead Ammunition Group website is up and running - so we can see the workings behind this small band with the power to deal shooting a crippling blow.

The first thing that struck me was the devious, misleading tone of the sh*t-stirring letter that RSPB and WWT sent to Defra in October 2009:

That, to my mind, vindicates BASC's assertion that trouble was coming anyway, and the best they could do was join the process and try to minimise any damage to shooting.

The shooting industry's reply, signed by John Swift, seems like a sensible response; it states clearly that they don't believe there's a case for restricting lead shot, and suggests that the industry's own Technical Working Group is already doing all the looking-into that's needed:

Significantly, the letter is signed by all the major shooting organisations - including those that are busy slagging off BASC now.

...and then back comes a letter from the minister, stating that he's setting up the Lead Ammunition Group and would you kindly let us know if you'd like to be involved. To which the only sensible answer is "Yes".

I'm not always 100% behind BASC's stance or methods, but on this one I honestly can't see what else they could have done. If shooters are looking for someone to throw insults at, I'd suggest starting with the RSPB, whose zero-tolerance precautionary principles are applied somewhat selectively.

Talking of the RSPB, have you noticed the slick way their PR machine has slid into action over the case of Lydd Airport?

The new government announced they would block any extension to Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, leading to speculation that smaller airports like Lydd might receive extra traffic. And hey presto, the RSPB discovers a pair of nesting purple herons, about to raise the first ever purple heron chicks to be hatched in the UK. And, sniff, they could be threatened by the airport development. Brilliant! Cue widespread media coverage, and a crippling blow dealt to the developers' plans.

Now don't get me wrong. I care about as much for airport developments as I do purple herons. I'm just in awe of the PR and marketing skills of organisations like the RSPB.

Just yesterday I received a text on my mobile telling me breathlessly "There's still time to save nature" - all I need do is click the link and sign their cloying Letter to the Future (check it out, it's like a parody of a Miss World candidate's speech). Most people, of course, aren't cynical, miserable old gits like me and will happily sign up, feeling they're showing their support for a sunnier, more wildlife friendly future. The number of signatures will, ultimately, be used as a club to beat concessions from the government (I suspect that won't be so easy with the new lot, but time will tell).

Meanwhile, shooting always seems to be on the back foot, reacting to challenges - defending ourselves against the attack on lead shot is just the latest example.

Should we - could we - think bigger, set our sights higher? Is there any reason why 'hunters' shouldn't become the voice of conservation in the UK. After all, we look after more of it than the RSPB do. For now. I suspect they've got a plan for that one too.


Meconopsis said...

Taken from the RSPB test's of copper ammo.

Of 62 deer shot with copper
bullets, 48 (77%) were assessed as having been
killed cleanly, with 12 (19%) recorded as
having run a short distance before dying and
two (3%) being mortally wounded but having
run further and needed to be searched for.

The copper ammo must be absolutely the best or the stalkers Olympic class marksmen.

How many stalkers like myself would expect to see at least 60% of deer shot run at least 30 yards with a perfect shot.

Have a look at this video.

Someone is playing with numbers here and I think it might be the RSPB

Alan Tilmouth said...

As always James there is more than one way of interpreting those letters, I note that despite labelling the RSPB's letter as 'devious and misleading' you didn't continue to state what was misleading. 'Shit stirring' could equally be interpreted as involving themselves in important issues regardless of whether industries such as farming, shooting and airport devlopment like it or not. Our environment cannot speak for itself.
The letter from John Swift could just as easily be summarised as saying " We've seen the science but we're popular and we generate loads of money so why not leave it for us to fudge"

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

The Hunting Lobby, Hmmmmm

James Marchington said...

Hi Alan, yes you're absolutely right, the RSPB letter could be given a more charitable interpretation. My choice of words reflects my slightly jaundiced view. I'd like to think shooters like me, and the RSPB, could work together for the benefit of wildlife and the environment. That would take a huge leap of trust on the part of shooters; having seen that letter, I'd be wary of getting too close, for fear of what was going on behind my back.

Meconopsis said...

James the RSPB are one united organisation with many working class folk involved.

We ( shooting folk ) have BASC, CA, SCA, GWT, SACS, SGA, GA I could go on with more and more groups that are supposed to represent shooting.

Until there is just one organisation representing the likes of you and I we will never match the RSPB and that is a fact !

Alan Tilmouth said...

Strikes me having read Meco's comments and you're reference to trust that what is needed is for the Working Group to appoint an independant auditor with no industry/lobby allegiances to conduct a through review and report back with all parties agreeing to abide by the results of such a review ahead of the conclusions.

James Marchington said...

That would certainly help, and I believe it's broadly what they plan to do. Of course it will come down to a matter of judgement - it's all about balancing risks and benefits. The science provides the numbers, but like crossing the road or eating butter, ultimately we have to man up and decide if it's worth it. Trouble is, RSPB will say it isn't and we'll say it is, and we're back to square one!

Sooty said...

Hi James think I may have got the wrong impression from your blog as to me it seemed very funny as although you seemed cross you still hopefully maintained you sense of humour.Would hate it as I hope lots of other moderates would if you felt you could not work with the RSPB and unfortunately there is always going to be setbacks along the way.Personally if your help could cut down on the number of raptors killed by amongst other things lead shot then I would risk ingesting a small amount of lead but of course some of my friends think differently.Hope we do not lose you as a ally of raptors as I see it.

Meconopsis said...

The RSPB are very good at finding BOP poisoned with Yaltox.

Yaltox kills within 30 seconds of ingestion.

Several things cross my mind when I see the info the RSPB come out with.

1: Why are only a few BOP found next to a bait ?

2: The Irish farmers are now using Trodax to kill BOP it is common knowledge but no BOP have been killed with it in the UK even though every sheep farmer will have it to treat liver fluke.

:3 The use of alpha chloralose killed over 40,000 gull,s on the Isle of May.

4:Not one BOP has been tested positive for lead poisoning by ingestion.

Anyone looking in here care to explain ?

Sooty said...

Hi Meco no attemt to answer your point of view as not qualified to do so but have several relatives and friends who are sheep farmers and never considered them a threat to raptors as most of them in my opinion seem to cosider Fox,Badger and Corvids a bigger problem.Could be wrong but always associate a small number of gamekeepers cause the raptors to be killed and although I can see their problem raptors do eat mostly carrion in my experience,even the Sea Eagles on Mull we have seen one pair for a total of 6 weeks and think from watching them feeding that they must have solely been eating dead animals, makes sense really as it savesenergy and time.Of course I realise certain raptors do kill some game birds but hopefully some solution will be found soon to at leastpartly please both sides or what will eventually happen in my opinion will be some draconian law that will not be pleasant.

James Marchington said...

When I read websites like Raptor Persecution Scotland and Raptor Politics I wonder why we bother. These guys are so angry it's a wonder their eyeballs don't burst. Angry at the imagined evils of the 'toffs' and their keepers, and apparently the connivance of bent wildlife crime officers too - because that's the only possible explanation when a copper doesn't immediately do what they believe is right.

How hard can this be? We have some fantastic surveillance kit these days (I just set up a motion activated camera to watch over a fox den 24/7, and it costs under £200). How about the RSPB pays landowners, shooting estates or not, to 'mind' birds of prey nests, with a bonus for a successful result. Some won't go for it, but a lot would.

Sooty said...

Hi James think I belong to the silent majority excpt I refuse to be silent a lot of your points need consideration and sincerely hope that in time the extremists on both sides become smaller in number just hope you do not give up on the cause because of some imflamatory writing.would be very interesting to see how many shooting estates would go for payment of protecting raptor nests,one of most interesting things I have read for a long time.Of course I now wonder if in your next publication you could see what the reaction would be to that proposal,at the very least it would be interesting and the figures would not be picked out or massaged.

James Marchington said...

I think it would have to be independent of whether or not there's shooting on the estate. But it makes sense to me - just as we pay farmers to look after hedges, leave unsprayed strips, etc, for the conservation benefits, why not have a 'raptor bonus' scheme for selected species? There'd need to be money for the landowner, and also a bung for the estate worker (maybe a keeper, maybe not) who actually did the work, after all it's his time that's being used. It would need to be verifiable, but preferably not a season ticket for the raptor group fundamentalists to march around the land shouting the odds; in fact I think it's crucial the sites are unknown to them, as well as the general public.

Sooty said...

Yes you could not have them going onto estates James recipy for problems,you seem sold on the idea and think I would tag along if estate owners supported it,lots of people would say we should not pay for something that should be allowed to occur anyway as control of them is illegal but if only we lived in a perfect world lots of things would be different,at least you are having positive ideas and trying to improve things hopefully for both sides.Probably get flak for it but as you get older you probably get softerand when on holiday see several Red Grouse and wondered how anyone could shoot such a lovely looking bird.

James Marchington said...

They are lovely to look at, but very exciting to shoot and delicious too! If you harvest them sensibly then you can have your cake and eat it, as it were. I don't do driven grouse, but love to 'walk up' grouse with the dog - last year we averaged 8hrs walking per grouse shot, so I reckon we earned them, and the numbers remain strong (despite the odd sea eagle, golden eagle, and even hen harrier on the ground).

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked. I know there are those who think the law should be used as a blunt instrument to force landowners what they believe they should be doing anyway. But like you say, it's an imperfect world and landowners have all kinds of pressures, not least staying solvent. If bird enthusiasts want to dictate how people look after the wildlife on their land, they'll have to pay. Or have a revolution, take all land into state control, and then pay state wardens to look after it. With, er, our taxes... looks like we pay either way!

Meconopsis said...

Let us not forget that there is very very little wildlife crime.

I do speak with other keepers and in all honesty the only BOP they have problems with are Buzzards.

Back to the lead shot.

I would be more worried about eating farm crops and livestock.

Just look at what the RSPB say farm chemicals can do to our wildlife !!

vicky said...

Re Grouse; grouse are my favourite example of why shooting is good. Without humans to keep moorland as moor land rather than letting it go to srcub, then forest and withour humans to control tick and worm populations in grouse they would probably die out. Would the RSPB spend the fortune it costs to maintain a grouse moor? I doubt it, oh and predator control is essential too. Grouse moor keepers spend this fortune in the hope there will be a shootable surplus and people pay generously for the priveledge of hunting such a special wild bird. the land owners still pay out in the years there isn't a surplus. Paradoxically shooting is the reason grouse are still around. amazing huh?

Meconopsis said...

I was in a meeting on Thursday with quite a high up farmer who also meets with the SNP on a regular basis.

Talk about eye's popping out when the Eagle topic was brought up.

There was a female at the table and several times he had to apologise for his language.

Farmers on the West Coast of Scotland who are having their Lamb crop munched by these huge birds are none to happy and they do have the means to get rid of them Trodax comes to mind.

If you look at some of the areas where Eagles have been poisoned Loch Awe for example there are no keepers ! Maybe Stalkers but they have no need to kill BOP.

I wonder why the RSPB will not take on the farming crowd????

I know Lamb farmers are very upset watching their money going down the necks of big birds that were re introduced into the theme park the OLD LABOUR government wanted Scotland to be turned into.

Me thinks that if they piss the farmers off the price of land might go up !

Sooty said...

Meconopsis think you have to take the tales on the west coast against Sea Eagles with a bagful of salt as some university or independant put tags on 74 lambs that in theory were expected to be at a big risk and surprise ,surprise none got taken so for sure it is a big exageration.The crofters claimed 40 kilo lambs being take now this is lambs ready for slaughter so obviously as a Sea Eagle at max can only carry 5 kilo the crofters are after compensation like some other places that have Sea Eagles and as is human nature often ask for 50 times more than entitled to.I do not say Sea Eagles never take lambs but for sure this is one of the worst cases of exageration,just lift a 40 kilo sack of anything and see if you think a bird could carry it or look into what a Sea Eagle can carry.