A voluntary ban on the phasing out of lead shot in the UK has had almost no impact according to a report, with 99.5% of birds killed found to contain the toxic metal.
While other industries have been forced to phase out lead, with the material banned from paint and fuel decades ago, shooters are still allowed to use it despite the fact it could poison soil and wildlife.
In 2020, the British Association of Shooting and Conservation announced that it, along with other shooting groups, wanted to phase the use of lead out by 2025, and urged its members to start switching.
But scientists from the University of Cambridge found there had been no change since this ambition was stated. Their study last year showed that 99.4% of recovered pheasants contained lead shot. This year, the amount has marginally increased to 99.5%.
The study, published in Conservation Evidence, states: “We found that 99.5% of the 215 pheasants from which shotgun pellets were recovered had been killed using lead ammunition. We conclude that the shooting and rural organisations’ joint statement and two years of their considerable efforts in education, awareness-raising and promotion, have not yet had a detectable effect on the ammunition types used by hunters who supply pheasants to the British game meat market.”
The scientists obtained 336 whole birds or oven-ready prepared carcasses from 70 businesses of various types, and at least one shot and/or shot fragment was recovered from 215. Chemical analysis then found that of the 215 pellets analysed, lead was the principal element in 214 pellets.
Wild Justice, a wildlife campaign group, said “Another 12 months of zero progress from the shooting industry. All talk and no action. UK governments should simply ban the use of lead ammunition rather than let this charade continue.”
Research by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust showed that between 50,000 and 100,000 wildfowl die in the UK each year as a result of ingesting lead from used pellets.