Milestone EU ban on hunting with lead comes into force

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The EU as well as Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein have banned hunting using lead ammunition in wetlands, a milestone advocated for by our member Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and other partners, with our support.

The new law came into force on 15 February 2023 and could save the lives of an estimated one million birds as well as improving the environmental quality of wetland areas. This marks the end of a two-year transition period to allow hunters to change to non-toxic ammunition.

Waterbirds are susceptible to lead poisoning as they ingest remnants of the ammunition, often mistaking it for grit which they use to help grind up their food. The lead can also lead to the secondary poisoning of predators and scavengers, such as eagles and vultures, amplifying its environmental impact. The entry into force of the law means that the EU is finally meeting its obligation under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) to phase out lead shot in wetlands.

Consuming game killed with lead also poses a risk to people, in particular children.

According to Dr Julia Newth, WWT’s Ecosystem Health and Social Dimensions Manager, “This EU law is a huge leap towards ending lead ammunition poisoning of wildlife in Europe. There is no safe level of lead – it has polluted wetlands for more than a century, creating a toxic environment for those that depend on them. This milestone recognises that it is time to clean up our act. This ban must be fully enforced by EU countries to ensure their wetlands are healthy for wildlife and future generations”.

Wetlands International Europe supported WWT with their advocacy actions ahead of the European Parliament vote on the ban.

We are also working with WWT to extend the ban to other habitats and fishing tackle.

More information can be found on the WWT website.