Lead is toxic.

That might qualify as one of the more obvious ways to start a blog post. We’ve known for decades that lead is toxic – it’s why society has gone to such great lengths to get rid of it from petrol, paint and pipes.

Yet bizarrely, it’s still legal to use lead ammunition in many circumstances here in the UK, despite non-toxic alternatives being available. Even where lead ammunition is banned (over wetlands and for shooting most wetland species – with slight differences across the UK) research has shown compliance is poor.

Whooper swan poisoned by lead. Photo by WWT.

Photo by WWT.

In England, a study found 70% non-compliance with the law. Its estimated that about 100,000 birds are poisoned annually by lead – a huge and avoidable cause of death for some of our best loved birds, such as pochard.

And the problem can extend to terrestrial areas as well. While not currently illegal, gamebirds, ducks and geese can mistake bits of lead shot for grit and ingest it, in dry as well as wet areas. And scavengers such as birds of prey can be at risk if they eat game shot with lead ammunition and not retrieved.

Change is possible. The RSPB has moved away from lead ammunition use on our reserves. We’re in the last stages of completing a switch away from use of any lead on our sites.

And we have legal obligations too. The UK has signed up to a resolution under the Convention on Migratory Species, which calls for an end to lead ammunition use within three years.

With all of this weight of evidence, its quite hard to understand why the UK hasn’t followed countries like Denmark and banned the use of all lead ammunition already. Well the good news that an e-petition has been set up to show the Government that people want to see an end to these deaths and an end to lead ammunition use.

The petition closes on 4 May, so there is not long left! The RSPB fully supports this cause and encourages everyone to sign. Please add your name.

Together we can send a strong message that the time has finally come to take the lead on lead.

Anonymous