The NGO National Committee has agreed the following position on lead shot:
Lead has been used in ammunition for shotguns and rifles for many centuries. It has been the material of choice because it has excellent ballistic properties, does not damage guns, is widely available and therefore relatively low cost.
In the 1980s, some scientific evidence emerged, mostly from overseas, that spent lead shot could be ingested by feeding wildfowl. It was for this reason that, in 1999, the NGO supported the British Government's objective of preventing the inadvertent poisoning of wildfowl through the ingestion of spent lead shot. The organisation disagreed strongly, however, with the way this was eventually done in England and we still think that legislation which makes it illegal in England to shoot wildfowl over dry land with lead shot is illogical. The Scottish system, where lead can be used for ducks and geese away from wetlands but not for wildfowl, gamebirds and other species over wetlands makes more sense. It is, of course, reflected in the voluntary Code of Good Shooting Practice, which the NGO supports and which has said for a number of years that, "Lead shot should not be used for any shooting over wetlands important to feeding waterfowl."
More science emerges year on year and there have been international papers recently about lead in the wider environment and as a toxin in food. The NGO notes the information continually coming to light on these subjects. The organisation is unaware of any reports of poor human health in the UK connected with eating food harvested with lead and notes that many country people, including gamekeepers, have eaten such game all their lives and are very long-lived. We remain sure that game, eaten as part of a well-balanced diet, is one of the healthiest meats available today.
The NGO is also aware of emerging research indicating that in some circumstances lead residues can enter wild animals scavenging on carcasses that have been shot with lead ammunition.
Best practice when shooting can resolve many of these issues but as a responsible organisation the NGO will continue to monitor the situation and will work with others to resolve, in a practical and proportionate way, any genuine problems that come to light.
Given the long and successful history of using lead in shotguns and rifles, the onus is on those who have concerns to justify them with reference to properly conducted science. Knee-jerk reactions to issues of this nature are seldom the best way forward.