Deer stalking ban on the use of lead bullets.
The prospect of a ban on the use of lead bullets in stalking rifles was raised by leading policymakers and scientists at a conference on deer in Warwickshire.
This is the first occasion on which shooters and environmentalists have shared a public platform on the subject of lead in rifle bullets in the UK.
At the Deer Management 2010 conference, the use of lead ammunition in stalking and the alleged health benefits of switching to non-toxic bullets were discussed.
Until now the subject has barely been raised within the stalking community, but in the conference?s final session representatives of the RSPB, shooting associations and the government set out the agenda for a process to remove lead bullets from stalking due to concerns over both human health and the secondary poisoning of wildlife.
Delegates heard how the RSPB is intending to introduce a ban on the use of lead bullets by deer managers and predator controllers on its reserves from 1 November this year.
At the conference, the RSPB?s Jeff Knott explained the charity had assessed the legality, toxicity, accuracy and safety of non-lead ammunition.
Copper bullets were used in trials on RSPB properties at Abernethy in Inverness-shire and the Arne peninsula in Dorset between August 2008 and March 2009.
Ninety-six red, roe and sika were shot with copper and a further 54 with lead, each shot being scored by the stalker for accuracy and outcome.
According to the RSPB, the accuracy of lead and copper were identical, while the difference in effectiveness was reckoned to be marginal.
The background to the discussion lies in recent controversial research from the US, presented by the raptor protection group The Peregrine Fund.
Documentation it presented at a separate conference nearly two years ago in Idaho suggested that bullet fragmentation can leave significant amounts of lead available both to humans who consume venison and to wildlife that scavenges from grallochs and other discarded carcass remains.
Many question the science on which the claims are based, however, and question the proportionality of a lead ban particularly given lead?s superior lethality.
The British Deer Society?s veterinary advisor Peter Green told the deer conference the risk from lead in venison is low.
He pointed out lead levels in the internal organs of certain ruminants tend to be higher than in deer.
?We should think about banning steak and kidney pies before we ban lead in bullets,? he told delegates.