A new study reveals the illegal behavior of gun users in Scotland, using poisoned ammunition illegally on wetlands 18 years after its use was banned.

A new study reveals the illegal behavior of gun users in Scotland, using poisoned ammunition illegally on wetlands 18 years after its use was banned.

In news that will come as no surprise, a new study has shown that poison bullets are still widely used to shoot birds in coastal and riparian habitats across Scotland, despite their use being banned in these habitats 18 years ago.

Photo: Brian Morrell, WWT

A new study, recently published in the journal Conservation Evidenceanalyzed discarded gun cartridges in various wetlands and found that about half appeared to contain lead bullets, which have not been allowed to be used in Scottish wetlands since 2005.

A ban on the use of lead ammunition on wetlands was introduced to try to reduce the amount of lead poisoning in wetland birds and the trace poisoning of predators that can kill shooting birds, especially certain raptor species (eg see here and here).

Here is a summary of the review (the full page is at the bottom of this blog):

Similar legislation (with minor changes) was introduced in England in 1999 following a voluntary ban on the use of lead ammunition on wetlands.

However, a number of studies since the new law was introduced (see here) have shown high levels of non-compliance, for example 68% non-compliance in 2001-2002; 70% non-compliance in 2008-2009 & 2009-2010; and 77-82% non-compliance in 2013-2014.

Another study published in 2021 concluded that since the regulations were introduced in England in 1999, an estimated 13 million ducks have been shot illegally using lead bullets, an annual average of 586,000 ducks, representing about 70% of all ducks shot. see here).

Notably, this 2015 paper that included the results of a questionnaire survey on the behavior and attitudes of shooters showed that one of the reasons for not obeying the law is that shooters believe that “they would not be caught” that is, the shooters knew that using lead bullets would not incur penalties as the law would not be enforced. This is a really common feature of wildlife crime in general, but particularly the crime of persecution, which I’ve written about before (eg here). It doesn’t matter how severe the punishment is, if the offender thinks there’s not much they can get caught, then it’s worth the risk of committing the crime.

The 13 million unlawfully shot also provides an excellent example of why it is absurd to calculate the extent of crime based on the number of convictions (as Professor Simon Denny recently attempted to do ‘really the goal‘ claim that raptor persecution is not a widespread issue – see here). If we classify each of these duck shootings as a separate crime, there have been successful prosecutions of potentially 13 million crimes (and those prosecutions only happened because the criminal shot a duck in front of witnesses, mistaking it for a goose while on a shooting range in North Yorkshire). Another 13 million criminal convictions clearly show that no prosecution/conviction does not equal no crime!

It is an important lesson for the Scottish Parliament as it considers the Wildlife Management Bill and Muirburn (Scotland) – if there is not enough monitoring and enforcement to accompany the new law on grouse moor management practices, offenders will continue to commit their crimes (ie killing birds of prey and lighting fires). in deep peat) because they will know that the chances of being caught are very small.

The Government at Westminster is now considering a range of ways to end the use of lead bullets (see here), after ignoring a lot of scientific evidence for years and instead choosing to support the shooting industry (then) refusing to dispose of poisoned bullets. (eg see here and here).

Three years ago some (but not all) of the game shooting industry realized that the game was up and announced a five-year voluntary phase-out of poisoned ammunition (mostly, I believe, because they didn’t want a ban imposed on them). However, three years into that five-year period, things are not going well (see here) and many UK shops are still selling poisoned animal meat to consumers who do not expect it to be used by humans (here) and pet food (here) .

The HSE is due to report its advice on the use of lead toxic materials to Government on 6th November 2023. DEFRA Minister Richard Benyon told Green peer Natalie Bennett recently that the Secretary of State for DEFRA’you will need to make a decision within three months of receiving comments, with the consent of the Welsh & Scottish Ministers.‘ (see here).

Anything less than an immediate ban on the use of lead poison to kill any species in any habitat (not just some wetland habitats), will be challenged.

Here’s a full page about the lawlessness of Scottish shooters, who still use poisoned lead bullets to kill birds on moors, 18 years after it was banned. Worth reading:

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