Lead shot ban on knife-edge

The future of lead shot in the EU is on a knife-edge after several countries indicated that they will abstain or vote against a ban of its use in wetlands.

The vote by an EU Committee that deals with chemical hazards (REACH) will decide whether to completely ban the use of lead gunshot over wetlands to prevent the poisoning of wildlife, people and the environment. It opened on 24 June and countries have until 15 July to vote.

Eleven countries have indicated they will vote against or abstain. The main attention is on Germany, which is currently saying it will abstain, because the size of Germany’s vote would swing the decision either way.

WWT has a long history of research and advocacy into the effects of lead poisoning on wildlife. WWT’s Director of Conservation, Dr James Robinson said:

Health, surely, is at the forefront of all our minds right now, yet countries blocking this proposal are passing up a golden opportunity to protect the health of their citizens, their wildlife, and their environment.

When I tell people about the poisonous effects of lead ammunition, their first response is always, ‘but isn’t it banned already?’ and I have to tell them, ‘no’.

Lead is one of the WHO’s ten most toxic human poisons, yet still over 20,000 tonnes is scattered by shotguns across the European countryside every single year. Shooting concentrates it in the very places where wild birds breed and feed and it poisons four million birds each year, and kills a quarter of those.

And it doesn’t just poison birds, it contaminates the soil and enters the human food chain, where it affects unborn babies of pregnant mothers and reduces children’s IQ.

This is not an issue on which any country should sit on the fence, let alone Germany with its influence and green credentials.

Germany takes over presidency of the EU from next Wednesday and has a proud record of addressing other sources of pollution and pushing forward environmentally-friendly measures.

There is consensus among European scientists and senior shooting leaders that lead gunshot should be restricted and replaced with the widely available non-toxic alternatives.

Late last year the EU launched a growth strategy based on green principles – a European Green Deal – that aims to restore biodiversity, cut pollution and ensure sustainable food systems, all of which will be improved by a positive result in the REACH vote.

Dr Robinson continued:

The health of four million birds and countless people is on a knife-edge but it’s not too late. We and our conservation partners across Europe will not give up until toxic lead is consigned to history.

We’re calling upon agriculture and environment ministers to back this proposal. And if you’re an EU citizen please contact your ministers to urge them to do the right thing for health.

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