Europe and Central Asia
20 Feb 2020

Two-FACEd hunting association says no to EU lead-ban

© BirdLife Europe and Central Asia
By Honey Kohan

The terrible impact lead exposure has on humans, wildlife and nature has been known for decades. The EU has already banned the use of lead from our paint, our petrol, our pipes and even our pencils, yet it is still legal to use lead shot, which are pellets made of lead, in hunting guns. Lead has been commonly used in ammunition and fishing tackle for decades. It is estimated that around 21 – 27 000 tonnes of lead is dispersed into the EU environment per year from these uses.

One of the direct results of the use of lead shot is that over one million water birds die each year by lead poisoning, after eating the pellets, often confusing them for stones and seeds.

The EU is now taking steps to ban the use of lead shot in wetlands, home to an abundance of wildlife, and rich in biodiversity. FACE, the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation, is attempting to undermine the EU’s banning of lead shot in wetlands.

In 2004, FACE made an agreement with BirdLife International which included a commitment to phase out lead shot use in wetlands “as soon as possible” throughout the EU, and in any case “no later than 2009”. Eleven years past this deadline, FACE brazenly state that the transition period proposed by the Commission to phase out lead shots is ‘too-short’.

In their statement released on the 19th of February, FACE state:

“FACE does not support the current EC proposal because it introduces fixed buffer zones around wetlands (which were not recommended by ECHA), a short transition period (even shorter than what ECHA recommended), a vague ban on possession of lead shot, which automatically criminalises hunters, and a very broad definition of wetlands that is too complex for the purpose of this regulation for hunters and enforcement officers to understand in the field.”

The FACE criticism in reality opposes everything which would result in the long over-due and enforceable ban on lead shot. Buffer zones help avoid easy loopholes such as standing outside a wetland but shooting into it.  The Commission’s goal is, rightly, to protect human health and eliminate the mass poisoning of wildlife and nature. Without a buffer zone this goal is effectively undermined.

Finally, ‘broad definition of wetlands’ refers to the Ramsar definition of wetlands, defined by UNESCO, which is the internationally recognised definition of wetlands and provides clarity for an EU-level ban. The quibbling over language in this manner is indicative of a preference to string the public and political leaders along rather than do the right thing to protect public health and fulfil previous, and very longstanding, commitments.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) scientific analysis and subsequent recommendations are unambiguous. Their clarity demands action if public health is to be taken seriously.

Ariel Brunner, Acting Director, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia:

“There is no justification whatsoever for hunters to continue dumping thousands of tonnes of lead into our most sensitive environments. Attempting to undermine the EU’s banning of lead shot in wetlands is an egregious violation of a longstanding commitment of FACE to support such a ban. The spurious criticism they make of a ‘too-short’ transition period is ludicrous, when they had already committed to realising this goal 16 years ago. With this position FACE takes a sledgehammer to the social acceptance of hunting in Europe.”


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