Lead Ban Chronicles – News And Education From The Lead Ammo Front
September 17, 2014
For those who haven’t been keeping up, it’s worth note that the lead ammunition issue isn’t limited to those of us in the U.S. Bans and restrictions on the use of lead ammo can be found all over Europe and the UK, and, at least in some cases, the issue has become just as contentious.
In the UK, for example, where lead is generally banned for waterfowl or for shooting over wetlands, there’s been an ongoing push (similar to the US) to ban lead ammo across the board. The predominant argument in favor of a ban is that the only way to ensure that lead stops showing up in the environment and in human food sources (market hunting is still a thing over there) is to ban it outright. If it is removed from the marketplace, it will no longer be used in the field. The primary counter-argument is that there’s no evidence that lead shot is harmful to the environment or to human health, and that a ban would not serve any real purpose.
Sound familiar? It should. Most of the articles, columns, and blogs I’ve read from Britain echo the discussion that’s happening here.
However, it is interesting to note that some of the leading British hunting/shooting organizations are not taking the same approach as many of the US organizations. Instead of simple denial and refusal to admit any possibility that lead ammo use is an issue (a la the NRA, NSSF, and some others), the British folks are urging sportsmen to strictly obey the current laws. To be clear, this approach isn’t so much about mitigating the potential impacts of lead ammo as it is to manage public image. It appears that some UK hunters are still “sneaking” the occasional lead shot, and as a result, that lead is showing up in waterfowl sold at market. This provides a talking point for the anti-lead contingent who argue that the only way to stop illegal use of lead ammo is to make it completely unavailable. To their minds, the current law is obviously not sufficient.
In short, some UK hunters are shooting the whole hunting and shooting community in the foot. A few bad apples…
The whole thing is summed up pretty nicely in this piece from The Western Morning News. It’s really worth a read, if only to see how this discussion is happening across the Atlantic.
There was the interesting juxtaposition in my newsfeed of the article from the Western Morning News, and a piece from Arizona’s KJZZ public radio.
The KJZZ report describes the results of recent testing that show a significant reduction in the number of condors requiring treatment for lead poisoning. While science requires more than a short-term change to infer causality, there’s a good likelihood that the decline in lead poisoning cases is a result of voluntary, lead ammo reductions among hunters in the sensitive areas of both Arizona and Utah. These findings are consistent with other reports, showing that the incidence of lead poisoning appears to be down in that area.
Of course, a little is never enough for some folks, as you can see in this snip from the article:
Arizona Game and Fish officials estimate that about 90 percent of hunters participate in the state’s voluntary program and the rate is growing in Utah. However, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Jeff Miller said measuring success from hunter participation is misleading, adding that an outright ban like the one in California is the only way to make a difference.
It is worth note that, despite the “outright ban” in California, and a reported compliance rate of almost 100% (based on field checks), the number of lead poisoning cases among condors does not appear to be declining.
So, infer what you will. All I’ll add to this is that maybe those folks in Great Britain have the right idea. As with so many issues, hunters can be our own best friends, or our worst enemies. Whether or not you agree with the laws or the science around lead ammunition, it behooves us all to follow the rules. In CA, the lead ban is largely unenforceable simply by virtue of the size of the ban area. It’s not hard to skirt the law. But that’s not a good reason to ignore it. And in AZ and UT, it’s not the law… you don’t have to use lead-free ammo… but you still have the opportunity to mitigate your potential impact by either voluntarily switching, or by removing any lead-killed carrion from the field.
If the apparent success of the voluntary programs in AZ and Utah continues, then it gives some leverage to folks in other states like Oregon and Washington to advocate similar approaches instead of legislated bans. That can only be a good thing.
And in California, if the lead ammo ban for hunting does not produce positive results, you can bet the calls for an outright ban of all lead ammo will only get louder. Incontrovertible evidence may yet turn up that the condors are getting the lead from other sources, but right now almost every finger is pointing at hunters.