Words by GLENN JEFFREY
It's a personal decision to go lead-free, but nonetheless, if I'm not hunting lead-free now, I certainly will be in the not too distant future as pressure mounts from environmental agencies and non-governmental organisations to minimise lead in the environment. I really do believe we are now at the tipping point where ammunition manufacturers have researched and invested sufficient resources into developing and producing rounds that are just as effective as lead for killing game humanely. I am not here to tell anyone to start shooting lead free – I know its a contentious topic amongst the hunting community, but I would like to explain why I have chosen to shoot lead free and if that gives food for thought, then that's a positive thing.
My decision to move to non-toxic ammo has been based on a number of things close to my conscience.
I want to keep my meat uncontaminated.
We go through a lot of effort to ensure our meat is wild, pesticide and hormone free by harvesting the animals in their natural environment. It seems absurd to stick a toxic slug into an animal after going to these lengths. And although there does not seem to be any evidence that eating meat killed with lead ammunition has affected any individual directly, I would rather not have any lead in my food and especially that of the food my family eats. The thought of my kids ingesting lead shot doesn't sit well with me after explaining to them how natural and healthy the food they are eating is.
We are already shooting lead free.
For years, I've hunted wildfowl and upland game birds with no problems using steel and bismuth shot. It seems like a natural progression to extend this to the rest of my hunting. My shotgun ammo is lead-free for whatever and wherever I shoot. I never have to worry about being close to watercourses and by consistently shooting with steel, I know how the shot behaves and its limitations and I shoot accordingly. Admittedly steel will not kill quite as far out as lead does, so I don't attempt those shots. It's a small trade-off for knowing that my food remains lead-free and everything I scatter over the landscape is non-toxic, which brings me on to what I consider to be the most important reason for shooting non-toxic loads.
I love the wild places that shooting and fishing take me to.
We all have the utmost respect for these places, but these areas are becoming fewer and fewer as pressure increases to develop them for transport infrastructure, new towns or to mine the resources from what lies below them. I want these wildernesses to remain pristine and for me, that means not leaving lead sinkers in the river or spent lead ammunition here and there when I miss a shot. Part of being in these environments is seeing the abundance of wildlife that hunting and fishing conserves. In the US alone it's estimated by the Center of Biological Diversity that each year 3,000 tons of lead is put into the environment through shooting and 4,000 tons of lead are lost in water bodies through fishing. Combined, this 7,000 tons of lead causes the poisoning of up to 20 million birds and animals each year. Worldwide, who knows what the figure is.
And that's the deal breaker for me and lead. Lead poisoning of our wildlife is completely avoidable. Sure it costs a little more at the moment to shoot non-toxic, but that will change as more of us shoot with it and demand increases. It's a small price to pay for knowing that both the animals we hunt and the habitat in which we hunt them remain lead-free.
I hope my reasons for moving to non-toxic ammunition encourage other hunters to give the alternatives a try. If you are considering switching to non-toxic or would like some more information, it's worth taking a look at www.huntingwithnonlead.org and www.leadfreehunting.com for some practical information on making the switch. For a scientific analysis comparing lead to lead-free hunting ammunition, please take a look at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4100882/
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