There has been a great deal of interest on the effect of lead shot on both people and birds over the last fortnight. The first was a report by The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, claiming that a high number of the birds tested on their reserves had ingested lead shot. This report stated that the lead from shotgun pellets is highly toxic. This toxic shot is mistakenly ingested in place of grit which is needed to aid digestion of food within the birds gizzard. Lead poising can affect almost all systems of the body.
The report states that lead poising negatively affects body systems and caused 8.7% of deaths among the 17 species of wildfowl inEurope. The WWT research found that one third of tested waterbirds had lead levels in their blood which indicated levels of lead poising. In addition to this lead poisoning was responsible for 1 in 10 birds found dead over the last four decades, with no measureable change following the introduction of legislation stopping the shooting of lead cartridges at wildfowl.
The WWT report according to the Countryside Alliance was riddled with errors and erroneous conclusions. One of the most crucial of which was that no concession was made to that fact that the migratory wildfowl that were tested could have picked up lead from anywhere within their range. This does not allow for an accurate review on the effect a ban of lead shot in the UK has had on the level of lead poising.
In addition to this, the Food Standards Agency has issued advice to frequent consumers of game meat. Dr Alison Gleadle the FSA director of food safety states that “This advice is targeted specifically at the small number of people who eat lead-shot game on a frequent basis.” The advice sates that to minimise the risk of lead intake, people who frequently eat lead-shot game, particularly small game, should cut down their consumption. High level consumers are those eating at least one meal per week.
The Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner states the FSA advice was issued to those who eat more than one hundred pheasants a year therefore aimed at very few people indeed. However this advice issued to a small number of people did not stop it gaining a large amount of publicity. This has been described by the Countryside Alliance as nothing but a sustained attack on lead from the WWT. Tim Bonner previously described the WWT as having a strategy for a health scare which seems to have come to fruition, just at a time when game is again being more widely eaten.