In an item published on its website, Countryside Alliance chief, Tim Bonner, added his voice and those of the body he runs, to the growing demand to end the use of lead shot in game shooting. Three weeks ago, the Alliance joined with eight other organisations, BASC and the CLA among them, in issuing a joint statement laying out their view that the time has come say goodbye to the lead cartridge. The statement referred to recent: “significant developments in the quality and availability of non-lead shotgun cartridges” and Bonner backed this up referring to his having used steel cartridges for his wildfowling for many years finding it “perfectly effective”. He added: “Last season I also used Eley’s new steel cartridges with a bio-degradable ‘eco wad’ for much of my game shooting and again found little difference to lead”.
It is likely that prior to taking this decision the subject would have been the focus of careful calculation. The Alliance campaigns vigorously on behalf the fieldsports sector and the wider rural community, but it finds itself having to tread carefully for fear of offending some of its special interest groups. Broadly speaking the Alliance and its co-signatories are right that lead should be ushered toward the door, but there is an element of virtue signalling to this; a subtext to it which seems to wish to avoid the accusing finger of eco-lobby. And this is where its support for a ban on lead might be regarded as the thin end of the wedge, because by citing the harmful impact lead has on the environment in general and wildlife in particular as a key factor in calling for an end to it use, it leaves itself open to questions about its position on other similarly contentious issues.
In 2015 the Alliance called upon the BBC to sack Chris Packham after the broadcaster had used his Naturewatch TV programme as a platform from which to attack the use of neonicotinoids by farmers. These chemicals, now subject to a ban in the EU, have been shown to play a large part in the alarming diminution in the numbers of insects and especially in native bee populations. This leads one to ask why on the one hand the Alliance cites scientific evidence to support a call for a ban on the use of lead shot and yet on the other ignored equally compelling data supporting the demand for an end to the use of these pesticides?
Is it possible that when considering joining the other bodies in calling for an end to the use of lead shot, the Alliance calculated that the reaction from the shooting community to the issue would be less hostile than would have been the case with the farming community and neonicotinoids and with a lesser impact on membership income?