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August 21, 2013

Leading on Lead

While The HSUS provides an extraordinary amount of direct-care to animals, our biggest impact is felt through our cruelty-prevention programs—whether that’s done by cracking down on puppy mills, factory farms, or Canada’s seal hunt, or other initiatives that take aim at institutionalized or systemic forms of animal exploitation.

Such as ending the use of lead ammunition in hunting. Specifically, in California, we are backing a bill to phase in a requirement that hunters use non-lead ammunition. The Assembly passed the bill, A.B. 711, by a two-to-one margin, and if the Senate follows suit and Governor Jerry Brown signs the bill, California will become the first state to require the transition to ammunition made of copper, bismuth, steel or other non-toxic metals.

Coyote - John Harrison
John Harrison

Lead has been removed from paint, gasoline, and other consumer products because lead kills. There’s no known safe exposure level, and that’s why it’s time to remove lead from hunting ammunition.

When the NRA and other groups fought efforts more than two decades ago to ban the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting, they said that a legal prohibition on its use would result in the end of duck and goose hunting. Such outlandish claims, which we can now evaluate in a very tangible way, have proven false. Millions of waterfowl hunters made the transition to non-toxic shot.

The naysayers made the same claims when California lawmakers considered a bill to ban the use of lead shot in the range of the California condor—in the vast area between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There, too, hunters made the switch, and there’s been no decline in the sale of deer hunting licenses.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation—the trade association for gun and ammunition makers, based in Newtown, Connecticut of all places—is now running ads in California saying HSUS is working to ban all hunting by pushing for AB 711. We’ve been down this road before, and their claims will be proved false over time.

Here’s the reason for our support of this bill: A preponderance of scientific evidence demonstrates that there are significant public health, environmental and wildlife health risks associated with lead from ammunition. One estimate says that there are more than 10 million doves a year who die from lead poisoning. When you consider that there are more than 130 species known to die from lead poisoning, it’s quite a staggering toll. Scavenging birds like condors, owls, eagles, and hawks as well as mammals like coyotes are all at risk and known to be suffering. Death from lead poisoning is painful, and even when lead exposure isn’t high enough to kill an animal, it doesn’t take much to weaken an animal to the point that it succumbs to predation or other diseases.

It’s also better for hunters and their families, who won’t be at risk of consuming lead fragments in the meat from wild game.

With an alternative product available, why not make the switch?

Editorial support for AB 711 from newspapers across California has poured in—The Los Angeles Times, the Monterey County Herald, the San Jose Mercury News, the Fresno Bee, the Sacramento Bee, the Riverside Press-Enterprise and the Bakersfield Californian, to name a few. More than a hundred California veterinarians support the policy of removing lead from hunting ammunition. Even the president and vice president of California’s Fish and Game Commission back the bill. More than 30 environmental, children’s health, and animal protection organizations have sent in letters of support, including Aubudon California and Defenders of Wildlife.

If you haven’t weighed in with your state Senator, now is a good time to do so.

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