LAG on the ropes?

Ex-LAG members have submitted a second report to DEFRA, critically undermining the first report put forward by chairman John Swift.

black & white loaded cartridge bag

Several key members have resigned from the Lead Ammunition Group since November, including Ian Coghill of the GWCT, John Batley of the Gun Trade Association and Sir Barney White-Spunner of the Countryside Alliance, who cited “abuses of process” concerning the group’s report on lead toxicity as his reason for taking a stand. Despite numerous criticisms of the LAG’s process, which Sir Barney claimed made the “group’s work so flawed it can never reach any scientific conclusions”, the report was submitted earlier this month. John Swift was quick to mention that the concerns voiced by the resigned members had no bearing on the report’s validity, saying: “As none of the comments were fundamental or added to the uncertainties already set out, they are not preventing conclusion.”

This is not the first time the group has been faced with controversy. Earlier in the year, an email correspondence emerged under the Freedom of Information Act which suggested that certain members of the group were not interested in a unbiased, logical approach to the lead issue. One email stated, prior to any official report, that “the LAG process will point with complete certainty to the toxic nature of lead ammunition”, suggesting some members had already made up their mind before considering the evidence. Yet the group appears to be embroiled in an even greater quarrel this month; there is reason to believe it may soon be dissolved. The Lead Ammunition Group website has been removed, with no replacement in sight and almost half its members out the door, it seems to be losing credibility fast.

Sir Barney White-Spunner said: “Two Lead Ammunition Group (LAG) reports have now been presented to DEFRA. The first report has been tabled by the chairman John Swift, and is the same report over which we raised over 170 comments and with which we refused to be associated, hence the resignation from the LAG. A second report has now been tabled by the now four ex-members of the LAG. As well as the Countryside Alliance this new group includes the Gun Trade Association, National Game Dealers’ Association and the Country Land and Business Association, with the support of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation. Our report has made full use of all available scientific material, reached balanced and objective conclusions, and we have made a series of recommendations to DEFRA based on the evidence presented rather than on any previously held positions as regards the use of lead. We will release the full report in due course once we have received an indication from DEFRA that they are happy for us to do so.”

DEFRA is now in possession of both reports, with no fixed timescale for a response. Sir Barney said that the ex-members feel “quietly confident” that DEFRA will come to the right decision.

BASC has been backing this secondary report, and has release the following statement: “Not only were we concerned that due process was not being followed, we questioned the evidential base apparently being used to inform the LAG,” said chairman Alan Jarrett. “We will continue to work with our sister organisations on this important issue. Collectively, we will not let our guard drop; we will continue to insist that any review of lead ammunition is conducted on sound evidence and proper process.”

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