New plans to phase out lead ammunition have been announced today by DEFRA. Many other countries have ended the practice but the United Kingdom still lags behind. A huge amount of lead ammunition shot over the countryside ends up causing unintended harm to the environment and wildlife.
The plans will launch with a public consultation but research has shown that more than 50,000 wild birds die each year because they ingest lead pellets because they believe they may be food. This in turn affects animals which eat wildfowl. It is also thought the pellets weaken immune systems of birds, which means when disease spreads (like bird flu) the problem spreads through the population very quickly.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:
Addressing the impacts of lead ammunition will mark a significant step forward in helping to protect wildlife, people, and the environment.
This is a welcome development for our new chemicals framework, and will help ensure a sustainable relationship between shooting and conservation.
The plans have met a warm welcome from wildlife conservation groups but only a lukewarm welcome from the shooting industry. While many in the sector have moved away from lead pellets, some still rely upon heavy levels of stock they have purchased. However any plans will be phased in to encourage and nudge towards cleaner, greener shooting and helping ensure any lead ammunition not used is disposed of safely.
Lead pellets have been prohibited in foreshores and wetlands for many years as well as banned for the shooting of ducks, geese, coot and moorhen but the plans should see a complete ban across England. Similar plans are being discussed on other lead and hazardous substances like tattoo ink, permanent make up and paint stripper.