The long-awaited ban on the use of lead shots in wetlands finally went into effect on January 25th. This sets the timetable for the implementation of the ban in the member states: they have until February 15, 2023 or until 2024 if the surface of the country consists of more than 20% wetlands.
Why is that important? This law will reduce the annual deaths of an estimated 1 million waterbirds currently dying from lead poisoning in the EU and halt extreme wildlife poisoning in wetlands. It will save millions of lives.
Lead shot consists of tiny round bullets that hunters spray from their rifles to kill animals. They use it to hunt waterfowl and other small animals in wetlands and elsewhere. It is estimated that, despite the existence of alternatives, hunters pollute our wetlands with more than 20,000 tons of lead shot each year.
Lead shot is particularly problematic for waterfowl who ingest lead bullets and mistake them for sand: small particles of stone or sand. Birds swallow small grains to act like teeth in the gizzard, a special stomach made up of thick, muscular walls that are used to grind food. The grain helps break down hard foods like seeds.
Ruddy Shelduck, copyright Stephen Daly, from the Surfbirds Galleries
The lead ban also reduces secondary poisoning of birds of prey and scavengers, which are regularly poisoned while eating prey contaminated with lead shot. Beyond birds, this new law will improve the overall health of our natural environment by preventing lead from poisoning wetlands.
When it comes to banning poison, delay means death
While the lead shot ban is very welcome news, the time it took to get it is just plain outrageous. The effects of lead on waterfowl and the need to banish and remove lead from nature have been known to hunters and conservationists for decades. AEWA, the Convention for the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds – a United Nations-administered intergovernmental treaty – has been working towards a ban on the use of toxic lead ammunition since it was founded about 25 years ago. Indeed, the contracting parties of the AEWA (82 countries, including the EU and its member states) should have stopped the use of lead ammunition in wetlands by the year 2000!
We are now in the year 2021. Since approximately one million waterfowl are killed by lead shot poisoning every year; This means that around 20 million waterfowl were killed in the two decades of delay. Twenty million. For nothing. And we’re not even talking about the terrible poisoning of all other types of wildlife.
This pointless, totally preventable massacre was only made possible by the clever delay tactics employed by the hunting gun industry and parts of the hunting lobby.
Half a century ago, the fossil fuel industry knew about the devastating effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate and was doing everything it could to delay any form of regulation. This is a very similar situation: the hunting gun industry has known the horror caused by lead ammunition for decades and has adopted a strategy of delay.
So as we celebrate the ever closer end of such senseless death and destruction; Our leaders must learn a lesson: When it comes to ending causes of intense harm, delay is death. Our decision-makers need to recognize the delaying tactics used by the opponents of the living. and follow the science in time. Indeed, whether it is ending the lead shot in wetlands, using fossil fuels, harmful agricultural subsidies or burning forests for energy; Protecting the living always requires quick and decisive action.
ECHA, the European Chemicals Agency, recently assessed the health and environmental risks of lead bullets used in hunting and outdoor sport shooting, and lead used in sinker and bait fishing. The agency concluded that an EU-wide restriction would be justified. We are ready to help ECHA find information in the coming months. and we count on our decision makers to act quickly to protect the natural world and human health. Lead has to go. Time is not on our side.