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DEFRA document raises fears of blanket ban on lead ammunition

With far broader scope than anticipated, Defra's online consultation calls for more information on clay pigeons, targets and silhouettes, writes Matt Cross in Shooting Times

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Will BASC's five-year phase-out of lead ammunition be brought forward by Defra?

In a move that suggests it is looking to bring forward a ban on the use of lead ammunition, Defra has launched its online consultation on the substance and its alternatives. The UK appeared to have dodged a requirement to ban lead ammunition under the European Union Reach framework.

Earlier this year, Defra said it would move towards a ban. Announcing the intention to phase out lead ammunition, environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “Addressing the impacts of lead ammunition will mark a significant step forward in helping to protect wildlife, people and the environment.”

Now the consultation has been published online and its scope is far wider than anticipated. As well as covering game shooting and wildfowling, it will also try to capture information on “clay pigeons, paper targets, biathlon targets, silhouettes” and so on.

Commenting on the consultation launch, Simon West of the Gun Trade Association said: “These questions cut right across huge swathes of our shooting and business future. Pandora’s box is now truly open and the opportunity for our detractors is there to try to manipulate the consultation to their advantage.

“You can imagine the misinformation that will be delivered on the impacts of lead ammunition on wildlife.”

BASC’s Conor O’Gorman was keen for the industry to get its message across. “This is a technical information-gathering process and it is important that shooting organisations, shooting businesses and firearms and ammunition manufacturers provide as much information as possible,” he said.

“Taking part will help ensure that the Health & Safety Executive is fully informed on the uses of lead ammunition. This is particularly important in assessing the socio-economic impacts of proposed restrictions to reduce the risks associated with some uses of some types of lead ammunition.”

Developments in France have shown how a UK ban might progress. French hunters were told last week that from 15 February 2023 it will be an offence not only to use lead ammunition in wetland areas but even to possess it within 100m of any wetland or body of water. Anyone caught with lead ammunition in these areas could face a fine of up to €1,500.