Much evidence demonstrates the adverse effects of lead ammunition on wildlife, their habitats and human health, and confirms that the use of such ammunition has no place within sustainable hunting. We identify the provisions that define sustainable hunting according to European law and international treaties, together with their guidance documents. We accept the substantial evidence for lead’s actual and potential effects on wildlife, habitats and health as persuasive and assess how these effects relate to stated provisions for sustainability and hunting. We evaluate how continued use of lead ammunition negatively affects international efforts to halt loss of biodiversity, sustain wildlife populations and conserve their habitats. We highlight the indiscriminate and avoidable health and welfare impacts for large numbers of exposed wild animals as ethically unsustainable. In societal terms, continued use of lead ammunition undermines public perceptions of hunting. Given the existence of acceptable, non-toxic alternatives for lead ammunition, we conclude that hunting with lead ammunition cannot be justified under established principles of public/international policy and is not sustainable. Changing from lead ammunition to non-toxic alternatives will bring significant nature conservation and human health gains, and from the hunter’s perspective will enhance societal acceptance of hunting. Change will create opportunities for improved constructive dialogue between hunting stakeholders and others engaged with enhancing biodiversity and nature conservation objectives.
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The term ‘gunshot’ refers to small pellets used in shotguns and excludes rifle bullets. The term ammunition includes both gunshot and rifle ammunition (bullets).
According to a general consensus but not necessarily legal applicable in all countries, ‘lead-free’ means that shot or bullets contain less than 1% lead by weight.
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We are very grateful to Vin Fleming and Colin Galbraith for their valuable comments that improved earlier drafts. We thank also multiple colleagues in the fields of conservation and international law, discussions with whom have helped develop our thinking on this subject. We thank also peer reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier text.
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Kanstrup, N., Swift, J., Stroud, D.A. et al. Hunting with lead ammunition is not sustainable: European perspectives. Ambio 47, 846–857 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-018-1042-y
- Animal welfare
- European Union
- Human health
- Lead ammunition
- Sustainable hunting