After defeating a proposed ban at home last year, the use of lead ammunition has now come under renewed attack from Europe

The use of lead shot is once again in jeopardy as the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) considers restricting its use.

Last year, before leaving office as DEFRA secretary, Elizabeth Truss MP rejected calls for a ban on lead shot by the Lead Ammunition Group, but it has now now under threat from Europe.

The ECHA has been tasked by the European Commission to find out what it would take to standardise EU rules regarding non-lead shot over wetlands, consider whether peatlands should be added to the current restrictions, if there should be a ban on the possession of lead cartridges on or near to wetlands, and if there should be buffer zones around wetlands in which the restriction will apply.

Major threat to lead shot

Shooting groups have firmly rejected the proposals. Jack Knott at the Countryside Alliance, described the ECHA consultation as a “major threat to the future use of lead shot in the UK” and stated: “It requests scientific evidence in order to change or further restrict the current legislation; we have made it explicitly clear that there is no such evidence.“The Countryside Alliance will not accept the addition of peatlands to the legislation, which will have a grave impact on those shooting grouse in the UK, nor the addition of buffer zones or any of the other proposals, without being provided with the evidence that these restrictions will reduce the risk of lead exposure to wildfowl.”

Poorly targeted regulations

Dr Matt Ellis, BASC scientific advisor and chair of the FACE (European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation) Ammunition Working Group, warned: “We are aware that ECHA is recommending a ban on the possession of lead shot in wetlands. Most shooting in the UK involves walking between areas of woodland looking for gamebirds, often without any shooting over wetlands.

“However, the definition of a wetland is so broad that hunters would be criminalised for carrying lead cartridges over any wetland, including field ditches and streams, even if they were otherwise acting lawfully and not shooting lead shot over wetlands. Unenforceable and poorly targeted regulations will reduce the buy-in from hunters and ultimately reduce the effectiveness of the regulation itself.”

The final deadline for evidence is 21 December, after which the ECHA will make a decision based upon the submitted information.