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Lead shot ban – what are customers saying about it?

As the debate over the move away from lead shot continues, it’s important we listen carefully to what consumers are requesting

lead shot

Some buyers are now refusing to stock game that has been shot with lead

I read an article about lead shot recently. As was to be expected, it was backed up by quotes, statements and statistics. Except this time, it was very much in favour of maintaining the status quo, and vehemently against a move of any kind towards the use of non-lead ammunition. It queried the scientific papers and data quoted by those who favour an outright ban, and talked about the shooting and countryside organisations that signed up to the voluntary phasing out of lead shot in February 2020 in less than glowing terms.

The pro-lead shot, anti-non-lead ammunition arguments were pretty standard, and I’ve heard them all before: “My grandfather ate game shot with lead his whole life and lived to be 100”, “If we move across to non-lead ammunition we won’t be able to shoot our English sidelocks”, “Steel shot doesn’t kill as well”, and the very predictable “I won’t be able
to shoot 60-yard pheasants”.     

I rather hope to live to be 100 as well, I have eaten game and rabbits shot with lead for most of my life, and as far as I am aware have suffered no ill effects. But it doesn’t mean I want or need to keep doing so when there are equally good non-lead alternatives. Wildfowlers led the way over 20 years ago. Stalkers are following suit, and game shots are tagging along behind and playing catch-up. 

Some will always oppose change, and that is their right. Others will undoubtedly stockpile lead ammunition because they are unwilling to try anything new, and because they like to feel they have cocked a snook at the establishment. However, most of us are happy to try new things and have no concerns about the change to non-lead ammunition when it comes. In fact, a lot of seasoned Guns have changed to steel shot already, and have no intention of going back to lead. They simply don’t see the need. 

The point that I feel is being lost on those who oppose the voluntary transition to non-lead ammunition, and all and any form of legislation against the use of lead, is that the change is already happening and that much of it is consumer-led. 

A European consultation on the use of lead and ammunition has recently closed. The UK is still very much a part of and signed up to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), and will be bound by its findings and any subsequent legislation. While the consultation has been going on, many of the bigger buyers of both large and small game have been asking for birds and deer shot with non-lead ammunition. Some of them refuse to buy or stock game that has been shot with lead. 


The customer is always right

Understandably, restaurateurs and hoteliers have cottoned on to this and are starting to ask for non-lead shot game. Butchers and caterers will undoubtedly follow, as will the people who are buying their game direct from their local shoots. And why not? They are our customers, and if steel-shot birds are out there and they would prefer them to birds that have been shot with lead, who are we to argue? 

We need to be able to sell our game. If there is no market for shot birds, there is no game shooting. If birds shot with steel or bismuth are preferred, and the market for lead-shot birds continues to get smaller, no amount of politicking, lobbying, or arguing will make the slightest bit of difference to how long we can continue shooting with lead. If people no longer want to buy lead-shot game, we will have to change anyway — regardless of whether we agree with the reasons behind it or not.


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