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Vote to ban lead ammunition shot down again as dirty tricks prevail

Posted on 15 Jul 2020

What happened?

We got close.

But the vote to prevent toxic lead shot from entering wetlands across the European Union has been delayed yet again.

Why? A last minute objection to the voting procedure by the Czech Republic Government, when a clear majority was evident, has derailed the process.

The stench of corruption and interference by a powerful ammunition industry lingers on.

What’s behind the delays?

Throughout this process, we have seen a pattern of governments being swayed by nefarious, back corridor lobbying and pressure from powerful shooting industries. This was recently exposed by leaked emails showing collusion between the German Agriculture Ministry and ammunition manufacturers. The emails show that the Ministry of Agriculture sought the help of an ammunition company to help them defend the indefensible and keep lead.

As a result, WWT, other environmental organisations and hunters concerned about lead poisoning, have been making our voices heard to the German authorities, who’d previously indicated that they were abstaining from the vote. However yesterday, on the eve of the deadline, there was a breakthrough. Germany realised it was being fed a pack of untruths by an industry opposed to change and agreed to vote in favour of the lead shot ban as long as the EU permitted an additional year for transition. Germany’s support tilted the balance and meant a majority was in favour of the ban. It was all to play for.

So today’s curveball hits us right in the gut.

This is just a microcosm of how the power of big business can sway governments, which in itself is nothing new, but seems particularly shocking during a pandemic - when the stakes for human health, wildlife health and our planet are so high. That toxic lead is still allowed to contaminate our land, poison our wildlife and enter our food chain in the 21st century is, quite frankly, a scandal.

A successful vote within the REACH Committee with its deadline of today (July 15) would have been the first significant hurdle to prevent toxic lead shot from entering a continent’s wetlands. The ban on lead shot in wetlands, proposed by the EU Commission, would help prevent four million waterbirds from being poisoned in Europe every year and reduce the many disturbing human health impacts of eating lead-shot game.

The delays are costing lives

We’ve now seen the best part of a year of delays on this vote. During the past year, more than 20,000 tonnes of lead shot will have been dumped into the environment causing the agonising death of a million birds through paralysis and eventual starvation.

Ammunition manufacturers may be happy with their profits but they are not doing hunters and the future of sustainable hunting any favours. In fact many hunters have very few problems with switching to non-toxic, lead-free ammunition.

But truth is powerful!

When the facts rise above the lobbying, good sense prevails. There are facts aplenty and the bottom line is that the alternatives work.

Let’s look at what just happened in Germany. Once the minister Julia Klöckner listened to the evidence and realised she was being fooled, they changed their position. To have ignored the evidence would have caused considerable political damage - a shameful stain on the start of their new EU Presidency and their proud record on dealing with environmental issues.

Other countries including France, Italy, Spain, Romania, Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Sweden and Austria have also stepped up to the plate, showing good leadership by indicating they will do the right thing! Let’s hope they hold their nerve against the lobbying during the time that the shooting industries have bought themselves.

What do we want?

We want rid of lead shot in ammunition, starting with wetlands. We want countries to have the opportunity to vote on this proposal as soon as possible as delays buy more time for the people and industries that oppose change and just perpetuate the poisoning.

We ask politicians, do you care about your health? Do you care about the health of the people and wildlife in your country? Are you serious about a Green Deal for Europe? Reducing pollution is a key aspect of this.

In the meantime, we cannot take our foot off the pedal. We ask people to contact environmental and agricultural ministers as well as MEPs to urge action and support for the proposals (for wetlands and all habitats) from the European Chemicals Agency under the framework of REACH.

The vote will be rescheduled for the next meeting of the REACH Committee which is likely to be in September. We fight on for our collective healthy future.

By Dr James Robinson, Director of Conservation