Effectiveness of an assurance scheme for wild-shot game meat products in promoting a voluntary transition from the use of lead to non-lead ammunition for hunting.
A consensus has emerged in the United Kingdom that a transition away from the use of lead ammunition for hunting game animals would be desirable to reduce harm that lead causes to wildlife and the market for healthy game meat products. Voluntary methods to achieve this transition are preferred by hunters' organisations and the UK Government, though statutory regulation is also being considered. Voluntary transition methods include provision of advice to hunters by their non-governmental organisations and moves by the game meat trade to switch to supplying only wild-shot game products from animals killed using non-lead ammunition. In this paper, I address the effectiveness of the practical implementation of a widely promoted wild-shot game meat product assurance scheme by asking commercial stockists of game meat listed on the scheme's website about the demand for lead-free game, their current labelling of products and the usefulness of the scheme's register of lead-free shoots in helping them to source game shot using non-lead ammunition. Responses were received from 39 stockists. Few respondents considered that there is currently significant demand for lead-free game meat products, though more than one-third thought that future growth in demand was probable. Few respondents currently sell products labelled as lead-free. Only one respondent had found the register of lead-free shoots useful and several were unaware of its existence. Based on this evidence and a review of progress with other voluntary initiatives, I conclude that substantial improvements in their effectiveness are needed if the benefits of a transition are to be achieved without statutory regulation.