Lessons learned from 33 years of lead shot regulation in Denmark


Denmark was the first European country to completely ban lead shot for hunting and target shooting. This paper reviews the process behind this phase-out to document its history, successes, and pitfalls, and to make the Danish experiences accessible for the benefit of other countries, authorities, and stakeholders who face nature management challenges implementing similar change. A review of the content of magazines published by the three hunters’ organizations during the 1978–1992 transition period was carried out, to assess the general discourse and identify the primary concerns and attitudes during the phase-out of lead shot for hunting in Denmark. Hunters were initially negative towards the change. Resistance was driven by concern about the quality, safety issues, and expensive cost of non-toxic alternatives, compounded by lack of organizational leadership and tensions between stakeholders. As a result of the widening appreciation of the environmental effects of dispersed lead shot and the introduction of new generations of alternative shot types, hunter attitudes became positive and constructive. Change need not pose an obstruction to continued hunting opportunity. On the contrary, it is believed that the value from the enhancement of the public image of hunters resulting from the reduction in the environmental dispersal of a recognized contaminant is of paramount importance for the long-term political sustainability of hunting.

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I am grateful to colleagues, in particular, Hans Peter Hansen and Tony Fox, who made valuable comments that improved earlier drafts. Vernon Thomas also supported the process considerably. I thank also peer reviewers who gave substantial and very helpful comments and suggested many relevant improvements.

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Correspondence to Niels Kanstrup.

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Kanstrup, N. Lessons learned from 33 years of lead shot regulation in Denmark. Ambio 48, 999–1008 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-018-1125-9

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  • Ammunition
  • Efficacy
  • Hunting
  • Lead
  • Safety
  • Sustainability