The voluntary move away from lead ammunition shows little progress

New research shows that one year after the announcement of the voluntary move away from lead shot to non-leaded alternatives, around 99% of pheasants still contain lead shot.

Exposure to spent lead ammunition has been shown to have significant negative effects on wildlife and human health. A joint statement by nine British shooting and rural organizations dated February 24, 2020 sought to encourage a voluntary transition to lead-free shotgun ammunition within five years, “while respecting wildlife and the environment, and creating a market for the healthiest wild products guarantee”.

A year later, and new research published in the journal Conservation Evidence, suggests that the move away from lead ammunition has started very slowly.

Pheasant, Copyright Glyn Sellors, from the Surfbirds Galleries

Carcasses of wild-shot pheasants Phasianus colchicus that were sold or offered for human consumption in the UK during the shooting season (October 1, 2020 and February 1, 2021) were prepared to recover existing shotgun pellets. The composition of the pellets recovered was then identified using emission spectrometry. The results showed that 99% of the 180 pheasants from which shotgun pellets were obtained were killed with lead shotgun ammunition, compared to 100% in a much smaller study conducted during the 2008/2009 shooting season.

Nigel Clark, one of the two BTO staff members who were part of the research team, said: “It is fantastic that British shooting organizations have made the decision to end the use of lead ammunition within the next five years. Independently reviewing progress towards this goal is critical to understanding the effectiveness of your advertising campaign. “

He added, “Perhaps it is not surprising that given the complexity of barrel shots, few alternate shots were recorded during the first winter
under the Covid restrictions, but hopefully we’ll see much greater adoption next winter. Given the benefits to human health and the environment, it is important that those who shoot follow the guidance of the shooting organizations so that the public can eat game knowing that it is not contaminated with lead while also helping to reduce the effects of lead in the environment. “

More information and the full paper can be found here (

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