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October 11, 2013

Lead-ing the Way in California

Bullets should not keep killing long after they’ve left the barrel of a firearm. Soon, in California, they won't.

In an act that will have major national reverberations for hunting and ammunitions manufacturing in the United States, Gov. Jerry Brown today signed legislation to make California the first state in the nation to halt the use of lead ammunition in hunting. The HSUS led the fight, along with Audubon California and Defenders of Wildlife, besting the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and other hunting-rights lobby groups that called for the status quo and the continued incidental poisoning of countless birds and mammals, including endangered California condors, in the Golden State. Gov. Brown also signed legislation today to forbid the trapping of bobcats around Joshua Tree National Park and other national parks and wildlife refuges – a second major wildlife victory for us.

Thank you, Gov. Brown. We are immensely grateful.

The lead ammo bill, AB 711, was authored by Assemblymembers Anthony Rendon and Dr. Richard Pan, and the bobcat bill, AB 1213, was authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom. We are also so grateful to these legislative champions for pushing these important policies over the finish line.

270x240 coyote lsterlingkrank
Lindsey Sterling Krank

Last year, Gov. Brown signed legislation to outlaw the use of dogs in hunting bears and bobcats, and the year before put his signature on a bill to ban the sale and possession of shark fins. He’s also signed more than 25 other animal welfare bills, protecting mountain lions, banning cruel traps and a wide range of other practices. In all, since voters passed Proposition 2 in California in 2008, state lawmakers and two governors have together enacted more than 40 new statutes for animals – including bans on tail docking of dairy cows and forbidding the sale of shell eggs that don’t meet the standards of Prop 2. Hats off to my colleague, California senior state director Jennifer Fearing, and the rest of our team for leading the advocacy efforts and skillfully working with so many lawmakers and with Gov. Brown. This incredible raft of legislation cements California’s place as the nation’s leading state on animal welfare.

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. In this year’s legislative fight in California, the National Shooting Sports Foundation – the trade association for gun and ammunition makers, based in Newtown, Conn., of all places – spent tens of thousands of dollars running print and radio ads attacking The HSUS, but their expenditures were all for naught.

Lead has been removed from paint, gasoline, and other consumer products because lead kills. 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 suffer from the toxic effects of spent lead ammunition, 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 disease.

With an alternative product available – including steel, copper and bismuth ammunition – 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. The president and the vice president of California’s Fish and Game Commission backed the bill, as did Department of Fish and Wildlife director Chuck Bonham.

This is an enormous win for our movement. Committed conservationists and animal welfare advocates know it is wrong to allow random poisoning of wildlife. It is inimical to any sound principle of wildlife management and other states should follow California’s lead. With the signing of these two bills, today is a great day for condors, bobcats, and more than 130 other species of wildlife in California!

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