UK: The Battle on Lead Ammunition

Lead ammunition

Half of the LEAD AMMUNITION GROUP (LAG) resigned and submit their own report on 25th of June 2015.

Countryside organisations submit their own findings to DEFRA (Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs) in response to John Swift’s “flawed” report on lead ammunition and argue that their approach is more logical and scientific than that of LAG chairman John Swift.

The new 14-page report (not yet published) suggests that DEFRA looks at only “sound evidence” of lead ammunition’s impact on wildlife, human health and livestock and work on mitigation measures based upon that evidence.

It was written by the Countryside Alliance (CA), the Gun Trade Association (GTA), the National Game Dealers Association (NGDA) and the CLA and details their own findings and recommendations. BASC also signed the letter and helped the organisations with the report, though the shooting group was not a member of the LAG. [1]


What is the LAG?


LAG had been installed in 2009 as an independent strategic working group made up of key stakeholders by The Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to advise government on the impacts of lead ammunition on wildlife and human health. [2] 

Their final report was submitted to DEFRA and FSA on 3rd June 2015. It is being considered currently. [3]


What has happenend?


February 2015:


Emails released recently by DEFRA under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act indicate that the Lead Ammunition Group chairman’s report will support a complete phase-out of lead shot in the UK. [4] BASC’s Council had been shocked and angered. BASC’s position on lead ammunition is very clear: “no sound evidence, no change”. BASC also confirmed that John Swift, Chairman of the LAG is not employed by BASC, nor is he a member. [5] 


May – June 2015


Four members quit the LAG. One had resigned before. The group lost half of their members before the report is published.[6] 

  • Mr John Swift – (Chairman, former chief executive of BASC, no BASC member anymore)
  • Mr John Batley – The Gun Trade Association Ltd (resigned June 2015)
  • Mr Ian Coghill – Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (resigned December 2014)
  • Mr Stephen Crouch – National Game Dealers Association (resigned May 2015)
  • Mr Mark Tufnell – Country Land and Business Association (resigned May 2015)
  • Dr James Kirkwood – UFAW (Universities Federation for Animal Welfare)
  • Mr Jeff Knott – RSPB ( Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)
  • Prof. Len Levy – Institute of Environment and Health (Cranfield University)
  • Sir Barney White-Spunner – Countryside Alliance (resigned May 2015)
  • Dr Deborah Pain – WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands trust)


 Exerpt of Sir Barney’s resignation letter [7]

I find that your draft is subjective and draws incorrect conclusions from what evidence the LAG has agreed. More seriously, many of those conclusions are based on evidence that the LAG has simply not agreed and which you are now presenting to us as a fait accompli.


I and three other members of the LAG have pointed out repeatedly that we cannot accept a paper on such a potentially serious issue unless it is written by professionally medically qualified experts; neither of the authors is a medical professional let alone a human toxicologist. One works for the RSPB and the other for the Wetlands and Wildlife Trust. Whilst both are eminent in their chosen fields, and whilst I accept Professor Levy’s oversight role, the fact remains that for such an important paper not to be authored by fully qualified medical professionals questions the whole basis of your process. The LAG has never accepted this paper and nor can it.


I am also disappointed that you have not chosen to disclose to the whole group those to whom you shared an early draft of your paper (your e mail of 18th December refers). Maybe if you had then we could have started to sort out some of this. I find it strange that we have been copied comments on your draft from some members of the LAG but not others. Subsequently I regard your intention to hold the final LAG meeting on a date when three key members of the group are unable to attend as hardly conducive to genuinely addressing their concerns.
Taken together, these abuses of process mean that your draft is so flawed that I cannot agree to it forming the basis of any final report. It is based on papers that have not been accepted and with which I and other LAG colleagues profoundly disagree. Consequently I have no confidence that any final report you produce will reflect my misgivings; in the two years I have served on the group my views and interventions have not been accepted. I regret that I have lost confidence in your chairmanship and must therefore resign.


Minutes of the 13th Lead Ammunition Group meeting – 26th May 2015 [8]



It was noted that the date of the meeting had been selected due to the potential attendance of the majority of LAG members. Some members were subsequently unable to attend.



There was disappointment at recent resignations of Sir Barney White-Spunner, Mr. Mark Tufnell and Mr. Stephen Crouch. 5. Significant comments on draft LAG report circulated 10th April 2015No new or additional evidence had been submitted which affected the report’s conclusions on level and scale of risks to wildlife. …Comments received from the gun trade representative had been valuable, but again no new evidence of significant negative impacts on the above had been provided.



In summary, the final report had taken some six months to near completion and although there had been resistance from shooting representatives to its conclusions it was felt that no substantial evidence had been provided which had materially changed these.



If you compare LAGS meeting report with Sir Barney’s open letter:

  • LAG has worked on its final report since December 2014, but did not inform all members about the draft.
  • It seems the critics had been fully informed on 10th of April, this means six weeks before the annual and final meeting.*
  • LAG scheduled the date of the meeting so that the critical group member could not attend.
  • LAG writes in its minutes that the resistance from shooting represenatatives to the final report have no substantial evidence at all.

This is a good example how policies are made.

* Three LAG’s supporters work full time for charity groups (UFAW,RSPB and WWT) and one as Professore Eremitus for the Cranfield University. Three LAG’s charity groups even have staff and money for political campaigns against lead, the critics work mostly unsalaried for their associations.











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