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Thursday, September 05, 2013

A Light at the End of the Barrel

Thanks to five grueling days of intensive, around-the-clock care, a very fortunate Canada goose at the Cape Wildlife Center in Massachusetts narrowly escaped lethal lead poisoning this week. Unable to stand, walk, or lift his head to eat when he was first found, the suffering bird had nearly no chance of survival without emergency medical care.

He was lucky; most of the tens of millions of animals that needlessly fall sick from ingesting toxic lead ammunition every year don’t receive treatment and even fewer survive and make it back to the wild.

A Canada goose recovers from lead poisoning at
Cape Wildlife Center. photo: Deborah Millman/Cape
Wildlife Center

In fact, it’s estimated that more than 130 species—including humans—are harmed by the effects of ingesting spent lead ammunition. Whether it is by inadvertently eating lead shot pellets off the ground while foraging, or unknowingly swallowing micro-shards of lead bullets scattered throughout the carcasses of hunted animals, this toxic metal poisons animals up and down the food chain.

Fortunately there is hope.

Public health organizations, environmental groups, hunters, and animal protection organizations are heeding the warnings and are coming together to support measures that get the lead out of ammo.

In California, we are joined by nearly 100 groups in support of Assembly Bill 711, which, if it passes the Senate in the next week, will be one step closer to phasing in the use of non-lead ammunition for all hunting.

As physicians dedicated to the health of Californians, the California Medical Association has endorsed AB 711. In its letter of support the organization wrote, “The CMA holds the protection of the public health as one of its core missions, and supports the concept of environmental protection and public access to recreational areas.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife showed its support last week when it also issued a letter of endorsement, stating, “The best available science related to wildlife health shows that spent lead ammunition creates the risk of lead poisoning for wildlife."

For public health, for wildlife, and for the environment, it’s time to get the lead out. These bullets keep on killing long after they have left the chamber, and it’s an easy switch to make with so many affordable and ballistically accurate alternatives on the market, like copper and bismuth. If you live in California, please take action by calling your state Senator today.


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