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The Lead Ammunition Group – a briefing for members

BASC has compiled this guide on the Lead Ammunition Group to inform members of the ongoing work of the Group.

Why was the Lead Ammunition Group (LAG) formed?

In October 2009 Mark Avery of RSPB and Debbie Pain of WWT wrote to the Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) expressing concern at the potential impact of lead ammunition on the health of humans and wildlife. They called for a group to be formed to address the evidence and make recommendations. A letter from the shooting organisations to the Secretary of State stated that while any evidence had to be addressed there was no case for sweeping legislative or regulatory change. The Defra Minister for the marine and Natural Environment, Huw Irranca-Davies MP, asked his officials to investigate convening a stakeholder group to look at the issues. In March 2010 Defra invited John Swift, then CEO of BASC, to Chair a group and suggested terms of reference. LAG’s first meeting was in April 2010. The full text of the letters can be read here: http://www.leadammunitiongroup.co.uk/index.html from the “background” tab.

What is the LAG?

LAG is an independent strategic working group made up of key stakeholders and invited 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. The terms of reference can be read in full here: http://www.leadammunitiongroup.co.uk/reference.html

Note that LAG’s work only applies to England; that its aims include advising the government on “managing the key risks to wildlife” and the “risk to human health from the increased exposure to lead as a result of using lead ammunition” ” and “any significant impacts of possible advice or solutions on shooting activity and associated recreational, wildlife management, economic and employment impacts”. The Chairman is identified as the “single point of contact” for formal advice to Defra/FSA and individual members of the group must not disclose advice outside the Group.

Who sits on the Lead Ammunition Group?

The following people are members of LAG

Mr John Swift – (Chairman)
Mr John Batley – The Gun Trade Association Ltd
Mr Ian Coghill – Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
Mr Stephen Crouch – National Game Dealers Association
Mr Mark Tufnell – Country Land and Business Association
Dr James Kirkwood – Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
Mr Jeff Knott – RSPB
Prof. Len Levy – Institute of Environment and Health
Sir Barney White-Spunner – Countryside Alliance
Dr Deborah Pain – Wildfowl & Wetlands trust

Membership of the Group is agreed between Defra, FSA and the Chairman. Members of LAG do not represent their organisations but sectors with an interest in the issues discussed. Sir Barney White-Spunner of the Countryside Alliance represents the shooting sector. BASC provides secretariat support to the Group.

In addition there is a Primary Evidence and Risk Assessment subgroup charged with producing risk assessments based on scientific evidence and reporting to LAG.

Further details can be found here http://www.leadammunitiongroup.co.uk/subgroups.html

How does LAG do its work?

LAG has agreed what constitutes primary evidence for its work and this has been published here: http://www.leadammunitiongroup.co.uk/information.html .The Primary Evidence Subgroup has been tasked with producing three risk assessments, based on the evidence, for human health, wildlife and livestock. These risk assessments will be peer reviewed and submitted to LAG for approval. LAG will then identify practical and effective risk management and mitigation options for any significant risks identified. The minutes of LAG meetings are published and can be read here: http://www.leadammunitiongroup.co.uk/minutes.html

When does LAG expect to complete its work?

It is expected that LAG will produce its next progress report to Defra/FSA this spring and complete its work before the next general election in 2015.

BASC’s view:

The current Chief Executive of BASC, Richard Ali, wrote the following article for Shooting Times which was published on 16th October 2013:

Opinion: Lead Ammunition

Over the last three weeks I have been representing BASC’s members at the party conferences. You might think it a doubtful pleasure being surrounded by politicians, advisors and lobbyists on their annual road-trips. Party conferences are strange places, but our work there is vital. BASC has been fighting shooting’s corner and I am pleased that together with the Angling Trust we have heard supportive words about shooting and angling from the three main parties in the UK.

In particular the campaign by all shooting organisations to remind people to use the right ammunition at the right time and in the right place has gone down well in Glasgow, Brighton and Manchester.

The contribution we all make to the countryside, the economy and to conservation is well recognised. Working with politicians of all parties to secure the future of shooting is one of BASC’s main missions. Politicians ultimately make policy and policy becomes law which, as we all know, governs what we do.

One key factor in making our argument has been the availability of independent figures which show how much shooting contributes to the economy and to conservation. Having those figures at our finger-tips is essential. The last such study was carried out in 2006 and we will be updating it in the coming months so we have the information we need to give to politicians and journalists ahead of a number of key votes throughout the UK, not least the general election in 2015.

BASC is managing the project and meeting the majority of the cost but the project brings together a wide range of organisations and shooting interests. This time around we have widened the scope of the survey to include the social benefits of shooting, which are widely appreciated in rural communities, and will also include more information on target shooting sports. The 2006 figures showed shooting generated £1.6bn for the economy every year. We can be sure that that figure will have increased in the last seven years.

It is also important that this study has strong scientific credentials. The numbers we use to promote shooting must be robust and reliable. They must be based on, and be able to be used as, sound evidence in all arenas from the newspapers to Number Ten.

BASC is clear that government policies must also be based on sound evidence. Opinions and prejudice make bad law. But sound evidence is only one part of the story.  We also need clear processes which guide how evidence is assessed and, if necessary, determine how policies, plans and regulations are made. We have delivered that message to the politicians. We expect them to test opinions with evidence and to follow proper process.  It’s what the ‘better regulation’ agenda is all about.

As we all know, there is a critical process under way which could affect how shooting is conducted in the future. It is a hard, scientific look at one of the most basic components of shooting – the type of ammunition we use. Much newsprint has already been expended on the issue but BASC’s position is clear: No sound evidence, no change.

Anyone wishing to stop or curtail the use of lead ammunition must build their argument on hard, indisputable scientific evidence. We will not accept unfounded opinion and prejudice as substitutes for facts.

The work of assessing a wide body of available scientific evidence is underway and is being carried out by the Lead Ammunition Group (LAG). The LAG was set up by Defra to bring together all of the available science on lead ammunition, to sift through it and work out what is valid and what is not and to report back to Defra.

The LAG’s membership is drawn from a broad range of experts. The objectivity of the group is critical. It must be allowed to complete its assessment of the science free from undue influence and work to a clear set of rules and a well-defined process: – It will make risk assessments based on the evidence. It will report to Defra and offer its best advice, based on evidence. Its work and the process which will be followed is available for all to see on its website http://www.leadammunitiongroup.co.uk/.  Again, BASC’s position is clear – sound evidence and clearly defined processes are the foundations of good policy.

At the party conferences we stressed the importance of solid evidence and due process; the importance of better regulation. This is important as we know that some organisations and individuals are already working behind closed doors to bend the ears of politicians and journalists and to push their own prejudices and opinions on the future of lead ammunition.

We have all seen before how the unscrupulous few are prepared to try and derail processes by splashing stories across the newspapers to press emotional buttons when the facts do not fit their agenda. On something as important as lead ammunition, this is neither acceptable nor honourable behaviour and we will expose underhand lobbying and undue influence. Our arguments will be based on facts and we expect everyone to follow due and proper process.

 

 

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