I paid a visit to my gunsmiths this morning to top-up on some .22LR ammunition. Inevitably, the lead-shot versus steel-shot dialogue came up and what I learned was both illuminating and disturbing.
Nine of the leading shooting organisations (let’s call them A9) recently aligned to jointly announce a planned phasing out of the use of lead-shot and plastic wads. There is undoubtably some wisdom in self-regulating in this way. The deliberate use of single-use plastic is an emotive issue. It doesn’t send a very positive message to our detractors about our commitment to conservation. There was a tenth organisation, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), refused to align with proposals. The reason for this interested me as I, too, had concerns about the reasons tabled for the sudden announcement. And it was sudden. As a member of BASC I fully understood, when I took out membership, that I was joining an association with an elected council. Just as I would expect my MP to make decisions on my behalf in Parliament, I would expect consultation. So too with the BASC council members. The key-word here though is ‘consultation’. That didn’t happen. Not even with the other most important ‘players’ in this whole scenario. More on that later.
The fall-out from this announcement has been immense and I fear that A9 are going to see their members voting with their fees as this evolves. Yes, I said fees, not feet. For these organisations are nothing without members and their contributions. What really upset the SGA and many shooters was the U-turn on the supposition (recognition?) that lead in the food chain is detrimental to human health. A notion that shooters have counter-argued for decades. Now all of a sudden (and largely driven by supermarkets rejecting lead-shot meat) the contamination argument was used to help mitigate the joint councils decision. As the SGA were quick to point out, generations of its members have fed their families on lead-shot meat with no detriment to health for many generations.
I don’t know about you guys and girls but I prefer to make my own decisions on health (or risk to it). As a hunter-gatherer, I haven’t the slightest interest in Morrisons or M&S influencing the choice of ammunition available and affordable to me. I am a lone shooter over a large acreage and my impact on the environment is minimal using a combination of lead and fibre wads. Any plastic cartridges I use are recovered. There are thousands of members of shooting organisations who, like me, would prefer to use their own conscience to make informed decisions. They are not syndicate members and have no commercial interest in game production or selling ‘shoot days’. They are rough-shooters and pot hunters. Many of us shoot within forestry land where steel shot is forbidden. The meeting between steel shot embedded within a harvested bole and a steel saw blade can be a sparky and cataclysmic union in a shed full of sawdust.
The assumption by A9 is that self-regulation on the use of lead and plastic will influence the constant attacks on our sport. By AR activists and the anti-shooting lobby? Isn’t that somewhat naïve? They want us dead and buried because we kill creatures. Not because we aren’t ‘green’ enough. Nor will it influence the likes of Wild Justice in seeking to reduce game-bird release numbers. On which point, I’m going to get really punchy here. If the decision to switch to steel is to sustain the driven game industry, not to support the singular gun owner, then shame on ‘A9’. An association is the sum of its parts.
The conversation in the gunsmiths, this morning? His main cartridge supplier is one of Europe’s major producers of steel shot. I probably don’t need to name them, in response to the many questions he was getting from his customers. 90% of whom would prefer to use lead and fibre. He called them and had a long discussion with his account manager. He was told that they had not been asked for advice. They were notified two days ahead of the announcement about the ‘aligned nines’ intentions. They explained the many reasons why that can’t happen within five years. There is a letter in Shooting times this week underpinning the conversation I was part of today. How can nine representative organisations arrive at what is essentially a ‘directive’ to their members without consulting the manufacturers who feed our barrels?
So now, not only do we have a community divided. We also have a rift between the gun users representative organisations and the gun trade itself. I hate to make the cliché but it’s there. Shooting ourselves in the foot.
Let’s just reflect on that word again, ladies and gentlemen? Consultation!
Oh … that header pic? Straight from the latest Shooting & Conservation magazine. A simple question. Did the old guy with his game soup and bread give a toss if the food was ‘lead-shot’ or not?
Copyright, Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, March 2020