Following the news last week that DEFRA has established a Lead Ammunition Group to investigate the use of lead shot, BASC set out to quell criticism of its stance on the subject by highlighting to the shooting community that it opposes unwarranted restrictions on lead shot.

The association reaffirmed its belief that restrictions must be based on an appropriate and proportionate response to science on the subject.

The move comes following increasing concern among shooters that BASC?s current response to existing overseas studies on the subject, including science collated by the US raptor group, the Peregrine Fund, is too accepting and insufficiently critical.

BASC?s spokesman, Simon Clarke, said the association?s position on lead shot is robust: ?BASC?s policy on lead, passed unanimously by its elected council, states that ?BASC will continue to oppose any unwarranted restrictions on lead shot use. Restrictions must be science-based and proportionate. Debates about possible restrictions must fully involve shooting interests.??

?DEFRA?s Lead Ammunition Group has been brought together because of increasing international scientific evidence on the potential effects of lead shot. BASC will be chairing the group which has been asked to examine that evidence and advise DEFRA. It includes the Gun Trade Association, the GWCT and the Countryside Alliance. Shooting?s interests are well represented. BASC will oppose any changes to the use of lead ammunition which are not backed by solid science.?

Many in the shooting community, have asked BASC directly in the past few days whether, as the UK?s largest shooting association, it intends to undertake UK-based scientific studies on lead shot.

Any such scientific study needs to be commissioned quickly.

While the Lead Ammunition Group?s first meeting is due to take place on 26 April, it is scheduled to make its first report to DEFRA on future lead shot policy after just one year.

Shooting Times magazine has been the subject of strong criticism from BASC on the subject of lead shot.

Currently the debate on lead shot is primarily influenced by the US-based Peregrine Fund.

In May 2008 it convened a conference ?Ingestion of Spent Lead Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans? in Idaho.

Attendees at the conference included representatives of the RSPB and BASC.

The conference organisers started from a position opposed to lead shot, based on its own field studies from 2000 to the present, which it claims, show that ingestion of lead rifle bullet fragments and shotgun pellets from animal remains is likely to be the only significant obstacle to the establishment of the California condor in Arizona and Utah.

The conference also presented a number of papers which investigated the impact of lead exposure in humans, including one on levels of lead in Arctic indigenous peoples who eat a high proportion of lead-shot game.

Despite the assumption that lead exposure is in itself a bad thing, even this paper conceded that, ?Concentrations of lead in blood currently reported [in Arctic indigenous people] are below a level of concern. ?

The CIC (International Council for Game And Wildlife Conservation), in response to the conference, has already announced it backs a policy seeking to phase out lead ammunition.

The studies presented by the Peregrine Fund, however, are not UK-based and, said Dr Stephen Tapper from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust: ?Though there have been plenty of studies worldwide, we do not know the extent to which the findings would be applicable in the UK. These things the Lead Ammunition Group will have to consider.?

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