Lead is a poison. It interferes with a variety of body processes and is toxic to many organs and tissues… It interferes with the development of the nervous system and is therefore particularly toxic to the young (Wikipedia). This applies to animals, birds and humans – hence over many years we have moved away from allowing lead in water, petrol, paint, etc.
In 1983 a UK Royal Commission on environmental pollution recommended the phasing out of lead shot for shooting game because of the effects on wildlife and humans. This has never been fully acted upon. Non-toxic shot has been used in Denmark since 1996.
The Wildlife and Wetland Trust estimates that
- 50,000-100,000 wildfowl die each winter in the UK from lead poisoning,
- 6,000 tons of lead ammunition are deposited in the UK countryside every year,
- 1 in 4 deaths of Bewick’s swans are due to lead poisoning.
A WWT briefing reports research in the UK as showing that a high proportion of game sold for human consumption had lead concentrations exceeding the European Union Maximum Levels. The shooters are actually poisoning themselves and their families!
Apparently, the UK Food Standards Agency considers it acceptable to ingest lead from game birds, but not more than once a week. Really? And it appears to be considered acceptable to mass poison wildlife.
This seems crazy – a disaster for wildlife conservation and a disaster for human health.
What can you do? Well at least join and support the efforts of the Wildlife and Wetland Trust.
Featured image of Bewick’s Swan courtesy of Adrian Pingstone and Wikimedia Commons