There is an urgent need to ban toxic lead shots in the EU

Responding to concerns of EU citizens about the state of the environment, the alarming loss of biodiversity and the protection of human health, MEPs should support the decision of the REACH Committee to ban lead shot in wetlands, following the opinion of the European Chemicals Agency to forbid.

Lead is a no-threshold poison, meaning that no exposure is considered safe for humans, as by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and be Risk Assessment Committee (RAC). The European Parliament now has the opportunity to move us one step closer to a pollution-free future by removing toxic lead from human, wildlife and the environment by moving the proposed restriction on the use of lead shot in wetlands after the positive vote (90%) of the EU member states in the REACH committee.

Lead shot poisoning over wetlands is responsible for killing one million birds each year in Europe. It also causes the dangerous pollution of extensive wetlands that should be better protected. However, this tragedy is easy to avoid. In fact, alternatives to lead shot at similar prices are widely available and often advertised by hunters. Taking all these elements into account, ECHA concluded that banning lead shot in wetlands is an obvious obligation to avoid poisoning people, wildlife and the environment.

Unable to claim that lead is not a poisonous poison, the Hunting and Ammunition Lobby makes it clear that the definition of wetlands covered by the proposed restriction is unclear and too broad. It is not. Only the globally recognized benchmark definition of wetlands is used, which is contained in the International Convention on Wetlands – Ramsar Convention. In addition, each Member State needs to map the wetlands on its territory in order to clearly define the geographical scope of the ban for hunters and law enforcement officers.

The proposed restriction rightly provides for the establishment of a 100 m long buffer zone around wetlands, in which the carrying of lead shot is also prohibited. This is important in order to properly enforce the restriction and to ensure that hunters shooting from the banks of a wetland cannot conveniently claim that they are aiming outside the area and further into the terrestrial zone outside the wetland.

The proposed law is therefore proportionate and necessary. The European Union has recently committed to stepping up and taking action on the environment in order to achieve a “real” Green Deal, and to be credible it needs to take concrete action. This proposal is the chance to build a pollution free future for the EU on which the European Parliament should build.

The ban on lead shot in wetlands, the ecosystem that has the most to lose among tons of lead shot, is a first step in the EU to phase out all toxic ammunition in the EU. The Netherlands and Denmark banned all lead shots more than two decades ago and are still happily hunting. It is time for all other Member States to take this route to avoid poisoning birds, including endangered birds of prey and wild-eaters.


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