The New GL43 General Licence
The shooting industry has been working closely with the government’s top health and safety advisors to find the best solution for eliminating lead shooting in the UK. A lot of research has been carried out over the past couple of years to understand more about how lead ammunition affects our wildlife and environment.
A strategy is being worked on to try and remove lead cartridges from every shooting setting by 2026.
The Health and Safety Executive have been tasked with reviewing how the country manages its use and distribution of hazardous chemicals under the new initiative called REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of Chemicals).
The HSE is particularly interested in investigating how using lead ammunition in rural settings can put animals, people and nature at a big risk. This isn’t an attempt to try and further restrict shooters and how they operate but simply a plan to protect our surroundings. In fact, the HSE is working very closely with a lot of primary shooting bodies and associations that are cooperating to strike the best balance.
Environmental ministers are aware of the fact that shooting plays a very important role in the control of species populations and the diversity of our ecosystems, so they are fully committed to installing an appropriate pathway. There are however, some concerning stats that clearly show lead pellets to be a serious threat to health and safety.
There could be as many as 100,000 game birds that are unintentionally killed by swallowing dispersed lead from shotgun cartridges in the United Kingdom, and that is every 12 months… it’s extremely easy for a bird to think that lead pellets are actually food - a usually fatal error. The effects can go even further than this as once wildfowl have been poisoned by lead, they can then act as a contaminated meal for the predators who feed on them.
Based on these figures, most shooters would probably be in agreement that there should be some alterations and restrictions.
In England there are already conservation areas or Sites of Specific Scientific Interest where lead pellets are banned, but planning from the HSE over the next couple of years will see these prohibitions broaden dramatically - it’s likely that lead pellets will be banned in all shooting environments right across the UK.
The news has been met with encouraging compliance from a large number of shooters nationwide; The GWCT is collecting people’s opinions on their own website and a huge percentage of participants have begun to make positive changes towards the cause. Most people who have put forward their views have said that they won’t need to wait the 5 years envisioned by the government to move away from lead shots - they’re confident that they will be using similar alternatives by the end of 2021.
The most common answer to a lead replacement is the steel shot which is being tested and produced by many key ammunition manufacturers.
There have also been calls by some experts for the government to hold a buyback/amnesty programme as they did with handguns in the past, which would encourage shooters to give up their remaining lead pellet inventories so that they could be recycled.
These changes aren’t too far away at all so it’s definitely worth taking some time to think about what you’re going to do to get ahead of the game, or at least make yourself prepared so there’s no mad rush when deadlines are released!