Written by Gareth Martin, 8th November 2023
Ammunition containing lead has been used in hunting, sports and recreational shooting for centuries. In recent years, however, there has been increased scrutiny of its use due to the potential risks to the environment and human health, so much so that in April 2021 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to prepare a dossier assessing those very risks.
Bans already exist in Great Britain which prohibit the use of lead shot over wetlands; the bans which were introduced between 1999 and 2004 were in response to the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement and aimed at protecting water birds from the impact of lead poisoning.
Working alongside the Environment Agency, the HSE sought to establish whether further action was needed to control the use or availability of lead in ammunition used for outdoor shooting in Great Britain.
The HSE published their report and proposals for further restrictions as part of a mandatory six-month consultation process which took place between May and November 2022. The consultation received over 2,750 responses.
Having considered the responses from the consultation alongside independent, expert scientific advice, the HSE produced its opinion on risk assessment. In summary, the HSE have identified risks from lead in ammunition that are not adequately controlled at present.
The risks relate primarily to the environment and measures have been identified which it is said will adequately address the same; this includes restricting some, but not all, uses of ammunition containing lead. The proposed restrictions include:
Live Quarry Shooting
- Live quarry shooting with shot- restriction on the placing on the market and use
- Live quarry shooting with bullets- no recommendation at this stage but this is likely to change depending on the responses from the public consultation
- Live quarry shooting with airgun ammunition- no action proposed
Outdoor Target Shooting
- Outdoor target shooting with shot- restriction on the placing on the market and use BUT with a derogation for certain individual athletes to allow them to continue to train and compete at international level
- Outdoor target shooting with bullets- restriction on the use with a derogation for use at certain sites
- Outdoor target shooting with airgun ammunition- no action proposed
Before such measures can be introduced, the HSE is required to publish a draft socioeconomic opinion on the restrictions and conduct a further consultation during which it invites interested parties to submit their comments on the opinion. The 60-day consultation opened last week and will run until 10 December 2023.
The shooting fraternity are encouraged to respond to the consultation to ensure that any measures that are introduced take account of the realities and practicalities experienced by those who actually shoot.
Any further regulation must be both necessary and proportionate and should also take account of the hard work and support that many in the shooting community have already provided and continue to provide to the authorities. For example, many have already vowed their commitment to a voluntary transition away from lead shot and single use plastics in shotgun ammunition for live quarry shooting. The authorities should continue to liaise and work with the community as co-operation more often than not yields more positive and timely results.
Those wishing to respond to the consultation can do so online via the HSE website; for those who want to provide additional information there is also the option to add comments or upload further material at the end of the survey.
The regulatory department at Olliers have considerable experience representing members of the shooting community, particularly with firearms and shotgun certificate appeals. Should you find yourself in need of legal advice and assistance, please do not hesitate to contact our experts for an initial discussion.