National Game Dealers’ Association (NGDA) members voted to source all game including deer & boar from lead-free suppliers by 2022

At the National Game Dealers’ Association (NGDA) annual general meeting, members voted to commit to sourcing all feather and fur game, as well as venison and wild boar, from lead-free supply chains from 1 July 2022.

The NGDA said this was agreed in order to future-proof the sale of game meat in their customers’ businesses, and to ensure continued consumer growth from those people seeking to enjoy the UK’s healthy delicious game products.

“This is a positive move for our industry to protect the environment and further assure our products in a highly competitive marketplace. The NGDA and its members will be working with the relevant industry groups to ensure, with this notice, our supply chains are able to make a transition,” said a spokesperson.

Tim Weston, development officer for the south with the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO), said the move had been pushed by market forces in the food sector, not by the government or shooting sector, but added that gamekeepers were always looking for new ways of working that benefited particular species and the wider environment.

“The NGO supports a sustainable future for shooting,” he said. “In February 2020, we were one of the signatories of a proposal for shooters to voluntarily change from lead ammunition to alternatives with a five-year time frame.

“Many shoots and others in the sector have already been looking towards alternatives to lead. Working together and testing new products in the field and giving constructive feedback will help speed up the development of alternatives.”

Several large UK game dealers, many of whom buy in deer from the smaller set-ups, have already begun refusing to take deer carcases shot with lead. Meanwhile, online private sales of deer carcases have boomed in recent months, possibly also as a result of lockdown.

Hampshire gamekeeper and UK Deer Track and Recovery founding member Tony Lowry says he has been using non-toxic ammunition for all his stalking for 18 months now – again, a move driven by demand from the pubs and businesses he sells his deer to.

“It’s the customer that is driving this change,” said Tony. “The pubs, restaurants and wholesalers that people and game dealers are selling to are asking for non-toxic ammunition to be used.

“With people like Chris Packham relentlessly pushing their anti-shooting agenda, this is a move that can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned. How can we promote and sell our game meat with lead in it when there is no approved safe level of consumption?”

The announcement will mean big changes for game shoots like Tony’s, where all the birds go to the game dealer, but he doesn’t forsee any major issues. “My boss is on board with the move away from toxic shot, and the fact is, people (Guns)] are just going to have to get on board with it. The only reason people won’t want to make the switch is if they are using an old gun, but there are solutions out there.

“It’s time we caught up with the rest of Europe, and I think the one-year timeframe from the game dealers is a good one.”