Animal Aid

Food Standards Agency suppresses publication of lead in 'game' meat warning

Posted 5 October 2012

After more than two years of meetings and examination of scientific reports, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), taking advice from the Lead Ammunition Group (LAG), was expected on 3 October 2012 to publish guidance to the public on the risks of consuming ‘game’ shot with lead ammunition. It declined to do so and gave no reason why.

The LAG’s key purpose is to inform government policy development. It is composed of stakeholders from the game shooting industry, animal welfare and environmental organisations. Its Chairman is John Swift, who is also the Chief Executive of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC). In setting up the LAG, DEFRA and the FSA demanded balanced, fair investigations and findings, an obligation that rested uneasily on the Chairman’s shoulders. Here is the BASC attitude to the use of lead ammunition and shot:

‘BASC will vigorously oppose any unwarranted restrictions on the use of lead ammunition. Discussions and decisions about possible restriction must fully involve shooting interests to ensure that social, environmental and economic consequences are taken fully into account by decision makers. The justification for any proposed restriction must be clear, substantial and science-based.’

In the meeting room of the LAG, detailed scientific evidence was heard that levels of lead in shot game, such as deer, grouse, pheasant and boar are a risk to human health.

  1. Lead shot cannot always be removed and disintegrates into powdered form that permeates muscle and tissue.
  2. There is no safe minimum dose of lead in food.
  3. Some game on sale in Britain has levels of lead that would be illegal in other meats.
  4. Children eating only one game meal per fortnight may lose one IQ point. This increases the risk of failure between High School and University of nearly 5 per cent and reduces worker productivity by 2 per cent.
  5. There is a risk of spontaneous abortion in pregnant women and an impact upon blood pressure and kidney function.
  6. Communities and individuals that consume large quantities of game are at greater risk.

Animal Aid believes that game shooting celebrity chefs, the shooting magazines, BASC and the Countryside Alliance, who promote the consumption of game by way of seeking to justify a cruel bloodsport, must all bear responsibility for the consequent damage to human health.

So why has the FSA suppressed the LAG advice? The answer lies in the small print of LAG’s terms of reference – but, ultimately, we believe it resides in a pro-hunting and shooting coalition government’s reluctance to damage the gun lobby. In setting up LAG, DEFRA and the FSA reserved the right to decide on the timing of publication of any advice to the public. It also gagged members of the LAG.

Animal Aid calls upon the government to publish the findings of the LAG with regard to human health and the consumption of shot game with immediate effect.

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