Exclusive: shooting industry accused of using charity to pass poisoned food to the poor

Pheasants plucking cropped

​Charities urged to rethink their relationship with the shooting industry amidst fears lead-polluted food is being sent to the vulnerable

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4th August 2017 by Graham Martin 6 Comments

The shooting industry has been accused of using charities to push contaminated food on the poor.

Animal rights activists have expressed dismay at a scheme to distribute meat from shoots to charities which give food out to those struggling to afford it.

They have questioned whether due diligence has been done on the game carcasses and raised fears they will have been contaminated by the lead shot used to kill them.

The plan comes from former cricket star and shooting industry spokesperson Ian Botham, who says he will donate pheasants and partridges killed on his extensive shooting estates to those in need.

10,000 lead-shot animals will be donated to newly created English charity the Country Food Trust.

Following Botham’s lead, other wealthy landowners have pledged to donate enough shot game to create 250,000 free meals.

The meat will be used to create “country casseroles and curries”, which will be distributed by the Country Food Trust through charities such as Veterans Aid, Fareshare and the Salvation Army.

However, there is a wide body of scientific evidence which has pointed out the dangers of consuming lead-shot meat.

Mark Avery

Mark Avery

Rather than pushing lead-loaded meat into the mouths of the poor, shooters should be moving to non-toxic ammunition

Since 2012 the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has warned: “consumers of lead-shot game should eat less of this type of meat. Eating lead-shot game on a frequent basis can expose consumers to potentially harmful levels of lead.

“There is no agreed safe level for lead intake. Independent scientific expert groups across the European Union advise that exposure to lead should be reduced as far as possible.”

The issue has been raised by campaigner and former RSPB conservation director Mark Avery.

He has specifically asked Fareshare, which runs depots in Scotland, to think again.

He stated: “Fareshare and others who take donated game meat ought to be careful what they are doing. I fear they will get no good advice from the shooters with whom they work. 

“Rather than pushing lead-loaded meat into the mouths of the poor, UK shooters should be moving to non-toxic ammunition wholesale – then we could give them some praise. But right now, they are a selfish, luddite and antisocial movement more determined to keep to the old ways than to do the right thing.”

When contacted by TFN, Fareshare confirmed that the potentially contaminated products are not being sent to its Scottish depots. However, it declined to discuss the wider issue, beyond pointing to guidance on its website saying its food complies with EU standards.

It also stressed that following FSA advice, it is unable to redistribute game to charities where toddlers or children or pregnant women or women trying for children are being fed. 

Harry Huyton, director of Scottish animal rights charity OneKind, said the shooting industry is using the poor to “greenwash” its activities, which have come under increasing scrutiny, not least because of the persecution of endangered birds of prey on estates.

He told TFN: “Donating shot pheasants to the poor may appear noble at first sight, but it raises a serious public health concern and risks greenwashing a cruel and environmentally damaging sport that involves the captive breeding, release and shooting of tens of millions of birds every year.

“The shooting lobby has long resisted abandoning the use of lead shot. This means that the lead content of game meat is frequently much higher than the maximum level set by the EU for farmed animals.

“Lead poisoning is a real risk to regular consumers of game. The Food Standards Agency has issued a statement advising reduced consumption, particularly for vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant women.

“We would advise that any charity distributing game meat evaluates these risks and takes steps to ensure those they are trying to help are not put at risk.”

In a report to Defra and the FSA in June 2015, the Lead Ammunition Group stated: “Can lead shot and bullet fragments be present in game meat at levels enough to cause significant health risks to children and adult consumers, depending on the amount of game they consume?

“Yes, almost certainly. In the order of 10,000 children are growing up in households where they could regularly be eating sufficient game shot with lead ammunition to potentially cause them neurodevelop mental harm.

“Tens of thousands of adults, including pregnant women and their unborn, are also exposed to additional lead by eating game as part of their normal diet lead exposure, and this could potentially cause them a range of low level but nonetheless harmful health effects.”

The Country Game Trust has been asked for comment.

4th August 2017 by R81

This is ridiculous. If it's OK for food banks to hand over all sorts of processed foods - from multi-packs of salty crisps, high sugar content sauces and fatty ready meals, how can a well meaning charity be criticised for providing proper, healthy food like this? This is the animal rights industry using a perfectly honest idea as a platform to push its own agenda.

4th August 2017 by charlie marshall

People have eaten shot game for centuries. R81 is correct: shot game (yes, its a good idea to remove the shot before eating) does not contain the additives and extra sugar and salt which exist in snacks and ready meals

4th August 2017 by Derek Manson-Smith

There is also a risk to teeth, as a major supermarket found to its cost after I shattered a tooth on lead shot in a wood pigeon.

4th August 2017 by RealFreedom

So the complainers are happy for top end London restaurants to use the game in question, but not the poorest in society.

5th August 2017 by charlie marshall

If Mr. Avery and his ilk consider how chickens are bred, fed, housed and slaughtered he might conclude that pheasant chicks have a pretty good life by comparison. Why is it wrong to provide nutritious dishes? The lead story is full of coulds and mights and short on empirical data. The effects of over sugared and salted foods however have been well evidenced. At least Sir Ian is trying to help in a practical way

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