Two-year lead ammunition review - threat or opportunity?

Conor O'Gorman

Conor O'Gorman

Conor O’Gorman has worked in a variety of conservation, policy and campaigning roles at BASC over the last 16 years. A zoology graduate with a PhD awarded for grey partridge research, he has over 25 years’ experience in conservation and land management.

Only days ahead of the launch of a European-wide public consultation on lead ammunition the UK government has announced its own two-year review under the UK’s new post-Brexit chemical regulations referred to as ‘UK REACH’.

So, what does the lead ammunition review mean for the future of shooting?

Firstly, there are no immediate changes on the horizon.  Any restrictions that do come into force will very likely be after the end of the five year voluntary transition away from lead shot announced by the shooting organisations over a year ago.

Defra has announced that it has tasked the Environment Agency, together with the Health and Safety Executive, to ‘start a two-year process to review the evidence, conduct a public consultation and propose options for restrictions.’

Once the two-year review has concluded, the government will then need to consider the options and consult on its decision and any proposed changes in law.

Secondly, if properly conducted, and BASC needs to play a key role in ensuring this, a review is an opportunity to objectively evaluate the evidence.

In the mix, we are also responding to an imminent public consultation on proposals by the European Chemicals Agency to ban lead ammunition across mainland Europe. Any EU restrictions will impact on us given it’s the main market for our shot game and for the trade in firearms and ammunition.

Thirdly, the UK government has shown support for shooting’s voluntary five-year transition away from the use of lead and single-use plastics in ammunition for game shooting.

Sourcing effective, affordable non-lead ammunition

So, in summing up, there will be no knee jerk lead ammunition ban in the UK as things stand and both the voluntary transition and the government’s review must consider a complex mix of economics, technical factors and attitudes. 

However, there is a key principle we must not lose sight of:  further restrictions on lead ammunition must not be imposed until effective and affordable types of sustainable ammunition are available in sufficient volumes to meet demand.

Ammunition manufacturers in the UK and abroad are developing new products but the amount of non-lead ammunition required for the UK and world-wide with current production facilities is a significant challenge.

Finding a positive solution

Looking on the bright side I think the review will provide opportunities for a rational assessment and positive solutions.  As conservationists we are committed to further reducing the risks of lead ammunition to the environment, wildlife and human health.

Your feedback continues to be key to a sustainable future for shooting and in a recent BASC membership survey, 70% of respondents stated “phasing out the use of lead and plastic shotgun ammunition” as either very or somewhat important.

Find out more about the transition to sustainable ammunition

If you have views, concerns or questions on the UK lead ammunition review please let us know by emailing lead@basc.org.uk

For more information on lead and non-lead alternatives visit https://basc.org.uk/lead/