Tuesday 6 May 2008

Lead ammo under attack

If you thought the debate over lead shot was over, think again. In the US, conservationists are organising a conference on Ingestion of Spent Lead Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans, starting 12 May.

Basically they're saying that shooting animals leaves small amounts of lead in the meat. Rare birds (eg condors, eagles, ravens) eat the meat and offal, and get lead poisoning. Maybe humans could get sick too.

This conference is all about lead residues from shooting deer with rifles. But the argument holds true for shooting rabbits, foxes, etc too, since they may end up as food for corvids, raptors and others. And you can bet it won't be long before lead shot cartridges are in the spotlight too.

Packages of venison, with alleged lead fragments circled. Apaprently North Dakota
state health officials recently ordered food banks to discard donated venison

The American Bird Conservancy has put out this press release showing x-rays of venison meat containing lead fragments, and claiming that "new studies suggest that humans who eat game shot with lead ammunition may be at risk". It goes on to make wild guesses at what the effects might be: "Recently published research suggests that even very low levels of lead exposure in children can cause learning disabilities, and in adults may increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease and death from stroke or heart attack. Lead is also associated with impaired visual and motor function, growth abnormality, neurological and organ damage, hearing loss, hypertension and reproductive complications."

Deliberately emotive stuff, and sufficiently vague to give lead a bad name without actually proving anything. It's the old trick of flinging mud at the wall, so some sticks.

Is lead really a danger to wildlife and humans? My view is that in the end the truth won't matter. If people believe it's a danger, that will be enough. We won't win the argument by shouting "prove it" – especially if it turns out they can!


Meconopsis said...

The old lad who worked with me on the fishing boat is 82 this year and his wife is 87 their old house still has lead pipes and they eat game most days. I wish people would start to think to themselves lets mind our own business and leave the poor country folk alone.

Anonymous said...

I am a hunter and a State Wildlife Biologist in charge of game birds. I attended this conference because we, a game managers, want to protect and maintain huntable game bird populations. It has been proven through substantial research, which I have reviewed, that doves, pheasants, and quail pick up lead shot as grit for grinding food in there gizzards. It has also been proven that any lead in a game bird's gizzard will kill that bird. If we have to produce enough research to link lead bullets and shot to health effects on sportsmen and there families, then I will do that to get rid of lead, and sustain these species for my children to have a chance to hunt these wonderful birds.

James Marchington said...

Thanks for the comments, anonymous - interesting stuff. Too many people have closed their minds on this subject, and start shouting 'conspiracy' as soon as the topic is raised. That said, your statements sound a bit black-and-white. If it was that simple, how can large pheasant shoots in England carry on year after year, without mass mortality of birds? And would you press ahead before a satisfactory lead substitute was available? J