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Wildfowlers not to Blame!
RSPB off the mark

The RSPB press release issued on 11 April 2002 was totally off the mark when it mentioned "wildfowlers" in its report that two-thirds of shot ducks sampled in England had been killed with lead shot (see Press Release below).

Eric Begbie, editor of Wildfowling Magazine International, stated that the statement illustrated just how out of touch the RSPB was. Its survey dealt exclusively with mallard ducks sampled in "Game Dealers and Butchers". Eric Begbie pointed out that true wildfowlers only shoot ducks for the tables of their families and friends and would never sell them through Game Dealers. He went on to point out that the ducks that end up on the commercial market have undoubtedly been shot on "driven shoots" of reared ducks on inland estates. This is yet another example of Britain's sporting heritage being sullied by irresponsible louts who shoot with no regard for their quarry or, indeed, for the law.

He demanded that the British Association for Shooting and Conservation should take immediate and powerful action to protect the reputation of wildfowlers and to unreservedly condemn the perverts (many of whom are foreign visitors or "townies") who bring our sport into disrepute.

The text of the RSPB Press Release was as follows:

English lead shot regulations breached

A study by the RSPB and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) has shown worrying signs that laws designed to reduce lead poisoning amongst ducks, geese and swans are being broken. Lead poisoning can occur when these birds, known collectively as waterfowl, mistakenly ingest spent lead shot. The regulations, introduced in September 1999, make it illegal to shoot waterfowl with lead shot and restrict the use of lead shot over English wetlands.

The study found that of 40 mallards bought from game dealers and butchers that contained pellets, over two thirds (27 birds) had been shot with lead.

David Hoccom, of the RSPB, said: "We're concerned that, in the third shooting season since the Regulations were introduced, the use of lead-free shot appears to be low, despite significant efforts to raise awareness among wildfowlers."

Dr John Harradine, head of research at the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC), said: "BASC condemns the illegal use of lead shot. Widespread disregard for the law will only damage shooting and lead to demands for a total ban on lead. Ignoring the law could lead to the prosecution of the shooter, gamekeeper, shoot captain and the landowner, the loss of shotgun certificates and the invalidation of shooting insurance. Dr John Harradine continued: " BASC points to the good example set by coastal wildfowlers who have demonstrated high levels of compliance with the law. BASC urges all shooters to follow their good example." 

The RSPB, WWT and BASC have called on the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to reconvene a group of conservation, landowning and shooting bodies to address the problems that exist with the regulations. Further work to assess compliance is crucial if the legislation is to meet its main purpose of reducing waterfowl deaths from lead poisoning.


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