Another problem caused by lead shot is the contamination of meat. Even after lead shot was banned, the traces in animals caught with this metal exceed the limits set for meat for human consumption.
Lead in the rice fields
Hunters who prefer lead to steel shot claim that the latter is harder and less dense. "With steel, one has to fire a larger shot so that it has the same mass. One cannot fire against the ground because of the risk of ricochets and it is said to damage the shotgun bore. Experience shows that these disadvantages have not affected hunting and that one can continue to hunt perfectly with steel," said Mateo.
Researchers stress that the hunters' compliance with this prohibition has been very high and that they have continued to hunt waterfowl in the same amount after the change from lead to steel.
However, the law forbids lead shot in protected wetlands only. For this reason, lead shot is permitted in rice fields that ducks use as feeding areas, thus maintaining focuses of contamination for the birds and their meat.
"These animals use the rice fields as well as the natural lakes for feeding. There is little logic in stopping the entrance of a pollutant into a protected area if the pollution continues at the same rate a few metres away. The birds don't understand boundaries. It has not been prohibited mainly because these areas are not protected," said the scientist.
Legislation in most European countries
This study has allowed the assessment of the effectiveness of the measures adopted by countries signing the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA). At the last AEWA meeting, the parties were asked to assess the effectiveness of the lead shot prohibition in wetlands and of the changeover to non-toxic alternative munitions.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology