Above: Lead ban success: support for the proposed ban came from hunters, scientists, EU ministers, conservation NGOs and the wider public, the WWT reports. Birds often mistake tiny shot pellets for grit or seeds and ingest them. Results of the WWT’s long-term waterbird health surveillance showed that whoopers and Bewick’s swans (pictured) were worst affected, with lead poisoning accounting for a quarter of deaths
A HISTORIC VOTE by European Union (EU) countries to ban lead shot in and within 100 metres of any wetland has been welcomed by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and other partners.
Conservation charity WWT has long campaigned to ban lead after estimating that up to 400,000 wildfowl suffer from lead ammunition poisoning every winter in the UK, of which 50-100,000 die.
The vote was made on September 3 in Brussels, by EU Committee REACH, set up to specifically deal with chemical hazards. A total of 18 countries, which made up 90 per cent of the votes, voted in favour of the ban. It is reported that the German Ministry of Agriculture, whose veto had previously prevented a Europe-wide ban, also voted in favour this time.
According to Julia Newth, campaigner and ecosystem health and social dimensions manager at WWT, through the charity’s scientific research, it has developed a substantial body of evidence to alert the public and policymakers to the deadly effects of lead.
“The toxic legacy of lead is profound – more than 20,000 tonnes of mainly lead shot lands in the very places where migratory waterbirds of the European flyways feed and breed every year, claiming the lives of a million waterbirds and causing ill health in three million more,” she said.
WWT campaigner and research fellow, Ruth Cromie added: “It remains to be seen how the UK government will respond but this is the beginning of the end of lead ammunition and the start of a healthier, greener future for Europe’s wildlife and people.”
Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), a non-profit organisation in Germany, who had organised protests in support of the ban, welcomed the decision. Its chairman Heinz Schwarze said: “We would like to thank all those who supported it by writing letters of protest or participating in the petition.”
The proposal will now go to the European Parliament for ratification before becoming law within the EU.
● Read more about the campaign at: www.wwt.org.uk/our-work/projects/tackling-lead-ammunition-poisoning
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