Shooting News By Arnold Chapkis
FIRST PRINCIPLES THEN PROPAGANDA – PART I
In 2015 Sir Barney White Spunner the Countryside Alliance CEO, stalled a vindictive Report calling for a ban on the use of lead ammunition. It was written by John Swift chairman of the Lead Ammunition Group (ex CEO of the BASC) with the support and agreement of the WWT and the RSPB, co-committee members on the LAG main committee.
It was the Countryside Alliance wot did it. Left solely in the hands of the BASC, the first stage of a complete ban on Lead Ammunition would have been implemented in 2013 (the year of Mr Swift’s retirement as CEO of the BASC).
The Countryside Alliance fortuitous recruitment of Barney White Spunner in 2013 helped thwart that outcome; for the moment.
The Lead Ammunition Group was launched in 2010. Dr Deborah Pain a WWT anti-lead evangelist, and the BASC CEO expected to produce a report to DEFRA recommending a ban on Lead. The Report was scheduled to be completed in 2011/12. The BASC did not intend to stand in the way of a report calling for a ban. It was the ‘direction of travel’ according to John Swift’s (a co anti-lead evangelist) during his 30 years guidance of the BASC Council. Sometimes covert, sometimes overt, that direction never wavered; until Richard Ali arrived as the new CEO in 2013 At that point the propagandising against Lead Ammunition was paused.
Many people cried fowl about the entire process in 2010. They managed to slow down, but not stop the threat. At that time the Countryside Alliance was largely unwitting, ineffective, and as one of their executives one remarked, “not prepared to die in a ditch” for lead. The arrival of Barney White Spunner at the CA signalled an opportunity to muzzle the longstanding, BASC- WWT- RSPB maniacally obsessive onslaught, against the use of Lead Ammunition.
Despite a DEFRA ‘Freedom of Information release’ in 2015 indicating biased behaviour, the LAG Chairman resisted calls for his resignation. Consequently the majority of his committee (5 members out of 9) resigned instead, citing abuse of process, and the flawed and partisan content of the Report. Nevertheless the minority Report written by John Swift was submitted to DEFRA over the heads of the dissenting member’s resignations. Despite the damming
collapse of the LAG committee the LAG continues in operation with John Swift remaining Chairman.
DEFRA state that the ‘report’ submitted by John Swift, the WWT, and the RSPB, is incomplete. When/if the report is completed DEFRA will subject it to scrutiny and ‘peer review’. The reason cited for denying public release of the report as presented, is ‘to avoid misinformed comment’. Whose ‘misinformed comment’ you might ask? Looking upon the bright side however, the words ‘long’ and ‘grass’ may be worth consideration. FOI requests asking for release of the so-called 2nd LAG report (submitted by those who resigned from the LAG), are currently awaiting a response from DEFRA.
Meanwhile, the Star Chamber the Lead Ammunition Group has a new strap line on its new website: –
‘A UK process for assessing and addressing the risks from lead ammunition’
The comedic pomposity of it; Professor Pangloss Gilbert and Sullivan eat your hearts out. Control of the new LAG website (with its continuing DEFRA imprimatur) appears to have been passed from the BASC to the WWT, thank you Christopher Grafius (see LAG minutes). It is now registered in the name of the Head of Digital and Design at WWT, presumably to conceal the identity of WWT control. No doubt we will be informed who the controlling hand is, if not the WWT. What is of note is the assertive ‘A UK process’, an anti-Lead battle cry if ever there was one. Why is DEFRA still sponsoring this crock?
We must expect the worst that the (Swift, WWT, RSPB) LAG troika can muster. The LAG website has been hijacked and turned into a full-blown anti Lead ammunition campaign tool.
The troika will increase their anti-Lead ideology lobby pressure. On the other hand, DEFRA has acknowledged the existence of the’ 2nd Report’ and has so far withheld it from the troika to much amusement amongst the Shooting Public who read.
As predicted (by Shooting News) English shooting is directly threatened by John Swift. Partnered by Debbie Pain, (WWT) their shared obsession to have Lead ammunition banned and shooting curtailed remains unabated. The BASC has a lot to answer for. The threat of the Lead issue is as potent as ever, perversion of the scientific process will continue with the ‘new’ Lead Ammunition Group website sweating anti-Lead psychotic petulance.
John Swift also continues on the board of FACE EU, another staunch supporter of the phasing out of Lead Ammunition along with their partners Birdlife and the AEWA. This network will of course be providing financial assistance via the good offices of John Swift
So what has been achieved? The remnants of the Lead Ammunition group finally submitted a ‘Report’ to DEFRA, 4 years late. DEFRA are unimpressed with its veracity and validity, and intend to submit the ‘Report’ to in-depth scrutiny to alleviate their concerns.
Barney White Spunner was the FACE UK Chair and held check on its EU parent to a small degree. Now that he has gone there is a very large and important space to fill, and a hard act to follow. Does English Shooting have anyone in mind, good enough and big enough?
This news-letter has charted and predicted many of the twists and turns of this unedifying piece of shooting history. It has actively lobbied to protect Lead Ammunition since 2009. The matter is not settled. The question is how long this ‘pause’ will last? 5 years ago Shooting News warned that we would be facing John Swift from the other side of the barrier as he stood shoulder to should with the WWT and the RSPB in their attempt to throttle the use of lead Ammunition. That outcome is now a reality.
A key problem is that the Shooting organisations mandate is weak. Around 80% of those who shoot are not members of the main organisations. It is easy to understand why this is so, just read on. A change of government in 2020 could/will set the clock back to zero. The only really organised sub group are the few thousand wildfowlers and look where they have got us.
The potted’ chronology below may provide insight for those still wondering why the fuss, and why the weak mandate?
“1979 The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, together with RSPB and the NCC and in collaboration with The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, carried out studies on the incidence of lead shot ingested by wildfowl”.
1983 Quote: Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (9th report ‘Lead in the Environment’) which also contained the following passage: –
“A report to the British Association for Shooting and conservation, the Royal Society for the protection of Birds and the wildfowl Trust on the poisoning of wildfowl in Great Britain by spent gun shot estimated that about 8,000 mallard each year die of poisoning from this source of lead, although this figure is a very small proportion of the overwintering mallard population and small compared with the direct losses from wildfowling”
The ‘estimated’ figure quoted above, of 8,000 dead mallard is totally spurious. Even so, a conservative peak ‘estimate’ of 800,000 ducks UK wide, gives a mortality rate of 1% or less. You then have to stretch a point in good faith and believe that the cause was ‘spent shot’. The report quoted is of very questionable reliability.
Mudge, G. P. (1981). The incidence and significance of ingested lead pellet poisoning in British wildfowl. Report to British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Wildfowl Trust.
“1991 Quote: WWT – Wildfowl 43 – 1992 – “1995 September An agreement between shooting and conservation organisations to phase out the use of lead over wetlands; ‘subject to the achievement of these objectives, the aim is to eliminate the use of lead gunshot for 12-bore shotguns in wetlands by September
- 1997. Problems remain; for example, no lead-free ammunition is being developed for use in guns other than 12-bore. However, the use of these in wildfowling is thought to be minor. A constructive attitude by shooters, and a realisation by manufacturers that there will be a market for non-toxic shot in the near future, mean that we are on the way to seeing lead phased out of use over wetlands and, eventually, for all shooting”. (see attached: WWT – Wildfowl 43 – 1992)
2010: Low and behold, the Lead Ammunition Group arrives. Planned, rehearsed, confident, self-righteous, and convinced, it will finally achieve its objective for an overall ban on Lead ammunition as laid down in 1991. Its schedule was to produce its final solution report within 18 months.
At the same time the BASC was engaged in a ferocious attempt to pervert the outcome of the DEFRA settled position on raised cages. Standing out against all of the shooting organisations it brought about a rescinding of the agreed code at the same time as it launched the LAG. The BASC had a very good 1st quarter of 2010. [see the raised cage case history below and attachment: ‘BASC urges Labour MPs to ban raised laying cages’]
2013 proved to be a turning point with the arrival of a new BASC CEO. Unfortunately he faced serious headwinds from within the BASC Council and some of the executives. Many members of the current Council had been present (on and off) throughout the disastrous preceding decades, as had a number of the executive. They had invested in a political currency of trading off lead ammunition, and attacks on game shooting. It is only in the last year that a new BASC CEO and Council has found a voice, and paused, as they cling to the stable door.
2015 – The quotes below are from articles published in the excellent Fieldsports Magazine in August 2015. The full text of the spokesmen for the CA, GWCT, and BASC are attached.
The Countryside Alliance penned by BWS said: “There is still much work to do on lead and we will be jointly evaluating what new research needs to be conducted. It is our belief that if lead ammunition is ever shown to be causing a significant negative effect on any aspects of the environment then we should put forward and trial appropriate mitigation measures”
Very true, and a glimmer of an action plan. But, what does the ‘2nd’ Lead Ammunition Report submitted to DEFRA by the Barney White Spunner Group actually say? Who now leads this group, what is its formal structure (if any?), how/who is drafting a viable protocol for the English/UK science that needs to be embarked upon? Who are the credible figures engaged with this? A veritable black hole exists with the departure of BWS.
The new Countryside Alliance CEO is more noted for an ambivalent approach to the Lead issue. In a recent article in the August 2015 edition of the Shooting Gazette (Titled ‘Lead Shot Shambles’) he asserts: –
“we know Lead ammunition can impact on wildlife”.
He is of course wrong, he does not know, he surmises on the basis of dubious circumstantial claims and ‘studies’ from the WWT, RSPB, and the BASC that this might be so. It is his opinion, not fact.
There is no empirical UK scientific proof indicting spent lead shot in the field, to support such an assertion. It does not bode well to read this sort of casual comment from a shooting representative, given all that has transpired in the last 5 years. But then he is a wildfowler; a subject very close to his heart, he frequently writes about it the most romantic terms. Eric Bigby is an iconic figure in the world of wildfowling and its culture. He is on the record referring to game shooters as ‘perverts’ http://www.wildfowling.co.uk/magazine/lead.htm .
There is another joker in the pack – FACE UK. Who is going to head up this rather nebulous concoction in the absence of BWS? Remember John Swift still sits on the board of FACE EU which still proudly defends the AEWA along with its partner Birdlife EU.
*The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust said: “New research had shown that big raptors like condors, eagles and vultures can die through eating lead bullets and bullet fragments left in carcasses that they scavenge. The very survival of the California condor is threatened by this. It is now also apparent that other birds like pigeons pick up lead shot and can be poisoned”
Not very true, no action plan, but then, the GWCT is not a shooting organisation: The Condor issue is specific to North America and not relevant to the UK, second, there is no hard science linking possible ‘rifle bullet Lead fragments’ to Lead in carcasses’ that might have been scavenged by Condors.
When asked to provide the scientific proof for their assertion above, 2 documents were offered; neither were proof of anything.
The Arizona Game & Fish Department paper http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/california_condor_lead.shtml supplied by the GWCT indicates that there is a voluntary Lead ‘ban’ in place. The GWCT fails to state that pertinent point in their article. The ban is not mandatory, because the so-called science is, as ever, conjecture. The Deborah Pain ‘review’ offered is equally lacking in the provision of scientific proof http://www.richard-zink.at/files/fisher2006_1.pdf .
The voluntary Arizonian Lead ban is based upon the ‘precautionary principle’, in essence meaning that politicians and eco-warriors do not know the answer, but buy into the prevailing propaganda. When asked the question ‘does the GWCT consider the papers offered to be scientific proof?’ It was not answered. Instead, an attempt was made to start a philosophical debate on the meaning of the word ‘proof’, seriously.
The GWCT is an excellent organisation – it needs and deserves much greater support from the Shooting Public – this is not the way to gain their trust; bear in mind that the Fieldsports article was its first’ public’ outing on the subject. Consider this – https://www.justgiving.com/pheasant-appeal and this – http://www.gwct.org.uk/game/pheasantresearch-
appeal/ – an RSPB collaboration? A question mark hovers over the quality of their judgement unless of course they are after the RSPB membership.
The British Association of Shooting and Conservation said: It is worth reminding ourselves that even before the LAG was set up, risk assessment and regulation had already been applied to the areas it was asked to look at; with potential risks to wildlife assessed and regulated years ago
The BASC facilitated the introduction of the AEWA ban on Lead ammunition over wetlands, more than a decade ago. They took this step without any UK based scientific proof, over the heads of its membership. It signed up to the banning of lead over UK wetlands as from 1995, over the heads of not only its own membership, but also the 85% of Shooting Public who shun the BASC.
We live in a world of identity politics and the identity of the Shooting Pubic is being erased. A million plus Shooting Public have lived for decades accused and abused, in the court of anecdote (often by our own representatives). Note the ‘non-compliance’ trope for example, no evidential proof presented, false and fraudulent science concocted. Note the BASC sending threatening letters to its critics within shooting, rather than explain and account for its errors.
Note the recently lauded Natural England/BASC agreement casts shooters as law breakers, The BASC signed it. Note the 2010 WWT/BASC laughably flawed and worse Report accusing 70% of Shooting breaking the law on Lead Regulations that they produced. We face an organised policy of persecution to oblivion.
The BASC is now under new management and canvassing for trust it has yet to earn. Its role as the WWT and the RSPB ‘Trojan horse’ lending DEFRA a ‘consensus’ to promote the anti-lead project is partially moth-balled for now. Not destroyed, dismantled, or atoned, just moth-balled.
A CASE HISTORY OF THE BASC AND RAISED CAGES
Let us remember what happened in the case of raised cages in the last few weeks of the dying labour government in 2010. Most of the English Shooting organisations had come to agreement over a code of guidelines covering the breeding of pheasants after a torturous 5 years of discussion with DEFRA. The code was agreed and the presiding DEFRA minister Jim Fitzpatrick (Labour) ratified it. BASC did not agree with it – “a matter of principle”.
In total defiance of the rest of the English shooting organisations and their membership John Swift’s BASC put up two fingers and set about to wreck the agreement (threatening the future of English game shooting).
To achieve its ‘aim’ BASC emailed Labour MP’s urging them to sign an Early Day Motion to vote for the rescinding of the agreed code. The EDM ultimately gained 203 MP’s signatures. Given that 60 signatures are regarded as a highly successful outcome, against an average of 30 or so, this was an almost unprecedented outcome.
All of this was expertly and enthusiastically executed by Damiam Mcbride Christopher Graffius director of communications (mentioned in dispatches at the 2015 AGM see below, and attached).
Another BASC figure mentioned in the 2015 AGM dispatches, Martin Salter, tabled the Early Day Motion for BASC in Parliament. http://www.shootinguk.co.uk/news/basc-urges-labour-mps-to-ban-raised-laying-cages-27782#SK5q8dUUgjkxDdA6.99
Also see text supporting banning of ‘raised cages campaign’ that was used to urge MP’s to sign up: http://www.shootinguk.co.uk/blogs/vote-to-ban-raised-laying-cages-4833#RiwGUm9MaL56fMiE.99
Jim Fitzpatrick** took note and a few weeks before the end of the Parliamentary session, duly withdrew the Code without any consultation with the other signature parties to the Code.
For those who so far find all this a bit incredulous let me repeat, John Swift’s BASC deliberately set out to bring down an agreement with DEFRA that all of the English shooting organisations had spent the previous 5 years fighting for and, indeed, had achieved.
The BASC responded that it had gone to great lengths to defy the settled position on ‘raise cages’ that the rest of English shooting representatives had fought so hard for, they said; “ We make no bones about pursuing our aim, which the elected Council and relevant advisory committees of BASC have long considered necessary…”
Labour lost the Election and the new DEFRA Minister Jim Paice (Conservative) reinstated the Code at the urging of the CA and others within the first weeks of his office. BASC did not agree or urge a reinstatement of the code.
Since that time a 2 year long DEFRA report, at the cost of over £400,000 (completed in 2012) has finally been released. The report firmly and conclusively endorsed the stance taken by the English Shooting Public, and its shooting organisations.
The current BASC CEO and Council ‘welcomed’ the DEFRA report, but failed to acknowledge the outrageous and disgraceful act of sabotage it committed against the Code in 2010 and the English Shooting Public hoping no-one would remember their intended damage. http://basc.org.uk/blog/press-releases/latest-news/basc-welcomes-publication-of-research-into-raisedlaying-systems/
An utterly catastrophic event was only rectified by a change of government. That is how serious it was then and is now. This is why the BASC is held in utter contempt by many, many, English shooters. But that was not the end of it.
You can imagine the pit of horror the shooting Public descended into upon discovering that the same John Swift, with the blessing of the BASC Council, was made Chairman of the Lead Ammunition Group. Unfortunately this blight on shooting continues.
**Fitzpatrick was and still is a keen animal welfare/rights campaigner. He is no friend of shooting, then or now. It is amusing to note he is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Headache Disorders, a headache indeed, watch out for him.
Try rising above the fray to gain a glimpse of the future of English Shooting. Do you see it in a secure and normal place within English society? Or each time the view is widened do you see more blots on the landscape? The unstable existence of English Shooting continues, little has been learned. The vision remains blurred.
Are we about to be exposed yet again, to BASC hegemony? Nothing wrong with that you might think, but it has to get it right. It did not – for 30 years.
2015: Then there is the June 2015 BASC AGM. http://basc.org.uk/about-basc/basc-constitution-and-objects/agmminutes-2015/ A curious affair, marked by a fair degree of petulant bluster and strutting defence, as the Chairman of the Council clung to the stable door. Don’t mention the name of ‘John Swift’ don’t mention 30 years of briefing against Lead shot, pretend we had nothing to do with it. A key player in the world of *wildfowling, and a member of the BASC for over 40 years, surely the current Chairman of the BASC Council would have been intimately aware of and involved with all of the above? Surely he would recognise the culpability of the BASC and make amends?
Which way does a shooting fellow turn nowadays; a born again, (not me guv) BASC, or a veritable Countryside Alliance, valiant and battle scarred, that has just lost it claws?
Message for the politicians: The BASC may speak for its members (approx. 15% of the shooting constituency). 600,000 UK shooters are not members of shooting organisations; a few of the reasons for this state of affairs are listed above.
There is no doubting the success of Allan Jarrett leadership in spearheading the KWCA project, or his long term involvement with the BASC. However, the implications of the command and control model raise a number of questions given the BASC has always held ‘command and control’ in high esteem. Their argument to their members being ‘this is in your best interests’. We have seen how this has been applied to the Lead ammunition issue and the raised cages issue. Imagine if the BASC were to reach critical mass and set its mind to replicating the KWCA model to all of shooting? Imagine that your access and ‘suitability’ were subject to a BASC vetting system operated on the BASC/KWCA ethos – if you are not accepted as a member you cannot shoot policy – far fetched? Well, you cannot be a member of 90% of wildfowling clubs without becoming a member of the BASC.
With all of the in mind the question that the BASC 2015 AGM raises is; why has it passed a motion allowing it to borrow up to £20 million of which “The Council shall have absolute discretion in administering, expending and applying or in directing the administration expenditure and application of the funds.” ?
The BASC Council is leveraging up, what is it going to spend 20 million pounds on and why?
A new Parliamentary session beckons, the landscape has changed, Barney White Spunner has gone. Tim Bonner steps into his shoes as an unknown quantity as far as shooting is concerned. We know he loves wildfowling, but then that is a BASC attribute that talks to less than one percentage point of the Shooting Public.
Wildfowling rightly receives committed vigorous defence (it must do so at all times) despite its (often irritating) natural instinct to prohibit & police. Yet, a high profile wildfowling commentator (Eric Begby – a spiritual father of wildfowling) called those who shoot game ‘perverts’. http://www.wildfowling.co.uk/magazine/lead.htm
BWS has been a tower of strength whose clarity of vision has saved the day for now. His departure from the CA is not only a desperate loss for the Shooting Public; it may yet seriously impact upon the future of the CA. I hope the newly appointed CEO is able to rise to the challenge, wish him well everyone.
Allan Jarrett has been with BASC since 1980: – Chairman BASC Wildfowling Liaison Committee 1980-2002.
Member of BASC Council for 15 years from 1989 – 2004.
BASC chairman from 2002 to 2004.
BASC vice-chairman 1988 -2002
Elected as BASC vice-president in 2005.
Trustee – Wildlife Habitat Trust since 2006.
Founder member BASC Wildfowling Liaison Committee.
Member BASC Executive and Finance Committee 1988- 2004.
Membership of various Medway Council Committees etc since 1997 including cabinet member for finance since 2000; founder chairman Strategic Procurement Board since 1997; founder chairman Property Board.
I believe that my wide experience in the running of BASC – for 15 years – and the KWCA – for 28 years – serves me well in being able to make another contribution to BASC. I possess a range of financial, political and administrative skills that could enhance the working of BASC Council. BASC Council Election 2012
Re-joined the BASC Council 2012 and is the current chairman of the Council
Arnold Chapkis – September 9th 2015 (1)
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(attached AEWA/DEFRA doc – Lead Baloon)