On the 25th of November the European Parliament voted to ban the use of lead ammunition in wetlands across the EU. 362 MEPs voted in favour of the ban, 292 against, and 39 abstained.
As we’ve written a number of times on this site (see – Shooting and Lead Shot), lead has been used in ammunition and fishing tackle for decades, despite all concerned knowing the terrible impact it has on wildlife, the environment, and humans. Lead is a serious pollutant. It’s dangerous – even Roman physicians knew that. Due to its high toxicity and the public and environmental health problems it causes, most releases of lead into the environment are strictly regulated in Europe (e.g. see AMEC 2012). In the UK lead was finally fully banned from vehicle fuel in 2000, removed from paint in 1992, and its use in water pipes before that. However, shooting still sprays tens of thousands of tonnes of lead across fields, moorlands, and woodlands, contaminating soil and water and besides putting at risk the health of wild birds also risks the health of people (their concerns brushed aside by disingenuous lobbyists and advertisers) that eat fragments of shot in their food.
Lead shot is still favoured by many shooters as ammunition, but it consists of many tiny pellets which are sprayed out of the rifle, as opposed to shooting just one bullet. Only a small proportion of the lead fired ever hits its target. The rest is scattered across the countryside and into the environment. It is estimated that around 21 – 27 000 tonnes of lead is dispersed into the EU environment per year by shooting.
These pellets are commonly ingested by water birds such as swans, flamingos, ducks and geese, who confuse them for the grit and small stones they swallow and use for grinding food in their gizzards The European Chemicals Agency estimates this results in the death of over one million waterbirds annually.
Despite the clear evidence (and despite the REACH committee – which determines European Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals.- already voting to ban lead in October because of its highly toxic properties), Members of the EU Parliament remained divided on the motion. Or more correctly a coalition of far right groups (including European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID)) and shooting lobbyists have objected. ID have already submitted another objection meaning that there will be another hopefully (last and final vote) on this issue soon.
It’s worth remembering, at this point, a comment from Christopher Graffius, executive director of communications and public affairs atBASC (the British Association for Shooting and ‘Conservation’) who was quoted in November 2015 saying to BBC News: “…when it comes to human health, there are risk management procedures [in place]; a ban would be a knee-jerk response – it’s not proportionate.”.)
In the meantime – and as our comment on whether it would be proportionate or not – we’ll reprint a tweet from Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust from June this year, which concisely sums up the idiocy of objections to removing lead from the environment…‘Lead is Toxic to all Life‘