The council of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), the charity founded by the wildfowler and conservationist Sir Peter Scott, has approved a strategy which will see it campaign publicly for a ban on the use of lead gunshot for all shooting in England within the next three years.
Part of the campaign?s method is to propagate public concern over consumption of lead-shot game by enlisting the backing of celebrity chefs and the online site Mumsnet.
Documents passed to Shooting Times magazine from the council?s meeting on 22 March state: If we do not take a lead on this no one else will as it is not central to the mission of any other UK conservation organisation.
The campaign is one the WWT considers risky, however.
It notes: HRH & others at Buckingham Palace may not be amenable to this ? but if handled in the right way (new information, emerging risks ? how could anyone have known etc.) Prince Charles could be an advocate ? unpredictable.
HM The Queen is the charity?s patron, while HRH the Prince of Wales is its president.
Entitled ?Update on the Lead Gunshot Position and Advocacy Plan Approved by Council in December 2011?, the document outlines the strategy for the WWT?s lead shot campaign.
The paper?s authors, director of conservation Dr Debbie Pain, and head of communications, Amy Coyte, recommend partnering with organisations such as Mumsnet and the National Childbirth Trust and a celebrity chef such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to raise public awareness of health risks it says are associated with consumption of lead-shot game.
The WWT proposes a number of criteria for success which the authors hope to achieve within three years.
These include a total ban on the use of lead shot in the UK, an effective ban on the sale of any game shot with lead and the introduction of food labelling with health warnings on lead-shot game.
The paper states: The main risks to WWT in the UK come from the hunting community, which does not wish to see a ban. This appears to be due partly to the invisibility of [lead poisoning] in wildfowl and the circulation of persistent myths regarding the suitability of alternatives, but primarily due to the innate conservatism of hunters and possibly a concern that this is the thin end of the wedge of banning hunting.
The paper also states that Wildfowling groups surrounding our reserves may not be happy and we will need to devise a strategy for communicating with them.
In 2009, Dr Pain and the RSPB?s then director of conservation, Dr Mark Avery, wrote to environment secretary Hilary Benn calling for a group of interested stakeholders to be convened by Government to address the evidence for lead poisoning of both wildlife and humans, with a mandate to make whatever recommendations it sees as necessary for the protection of the environment and human health.
This lead to the formation of the Lead Ammunition Group (LAG), which includes representatives from BASC, the Countryside Alliance, the GWCT and the WWT.
Dr Avery, after his departure from the RSPB last year, was engaged by the WWT as a consultant on the charity?s current lead campaign.
Shooting Times magazine contacted Dr Pain for confirmation the council had approved the lead shot campaign.
She stated that it had been approved, but there was still work to do to finalise it.
Asked whether this campaign would subvert the work of the LAG, she said: ?Absolutely not. There?s a diverse range of people on the LAG with a wide range of views on lead shot. The point of the group is to arrive at a collective view. Our principal concern is that wildfowl are still dying from lead poisoning.?
?The compliance report the WWT conducted on behalf of DEFRA shows that there is little compliance with lead shot bans, and our own research shows that there are still high levels of lead contamination in wildfowl.?
?A further point is that wildfowl continue to pick up lead shot away from wetland areas. The human health issue is of concern to us, but we see this really as the only solution to solving the problem of lead poisoning in wildfowl.?
?Bans on lead shot have been carried out in other countries within Europe and there are practical alternatives to lead available. This is an issue that needs to be moved forwards.?
Asked whether she thought a lead ban would harm game sales, Dr Pain said: ?This shouldn?t affect game sales. That?s not what we?re after at all. Alternative shot is available. If it is used, then game sales should not be affected.?