We live in a part of the country where game of all kinds – deer, wild boar, pheasant, partridge etc. – is readily available through butchers and game dealers, especially at this time of year.
A topic that is growing in weight in the media is the use of toxic lead shot to bag game. In July, Waitrose announced that from the 2020-21 season it will ban the sale in its stores of birds shot with lead ammunition. This follows from recommendations by the government’s expert group in 2015 which concluded that there were no ways to reduce the risk to human health and wildlife from lead shot other than using non-toxic ammunition instead.
The concerns are not just about the poisoning risk to humans from eating game containing or contaminated by lead shot but also the impact of lead shot entering and polluting the natural environment where it is ingested by wildlife, particularly waterfowl and raptors scavenging game carcasses.
Government advice on this topic is currently confusing. Advice in 2015 from the government’s Lead Ammunition Group to consider introduction of a ban on lead ammunition was turned aside by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Food Standards Agency advises that “consuming lead is harmful, health experts advise to minimise lead consumption as much as possible”.
Estates including the Forestry Commission have banned the use of lead ammunition for culling deer and wild boar. The use of lead shot is prohibited generally in England and Wales when shooting water based game such as duck and geese.
However, the Game and Wildlife Conservancy has stated that “the evidence base does not currently support further restrictions on lead ammunition”, suggesting a need for “more guidance and research”.
You can find out more about this topic at:
The Food Standards Agency – www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/lead-shot-game.
British Wildlife Magazine Vol 30 no 3 February 2019 – article by Professor Ian Newton
The Game and Wildlife Conservancy – www.gwct.org.uk/advisory/briefings/lead-ammunition/
The Lead Ammunition Group – www.leadammunitiongroup.org.uk/information/.
You can ask their butcher for his view on this. He should be able to confirm whether they are able to supply game that can be guaranteed not to have been shot with lead ammunition.