NHSA and lead-based ammo


NHSA is of the opinion that poisoning by pesticides and pollution by Endocrine Disruptive Chemicals (EDCs) and radioactive heavy metals constitute an environmental crisis of national disaster proportions,  and that concerns re the use of lead in hunting and sport shooting firearm ammunition, constitute a distraction in addressing these far more serious environmental and health risks.

Following extensive field investigations and the evaluation of numerous scientific reports, NHSA has with extreme concern, noted the continuous malicious poisoning of wildlife through the irresponsible use of pesticides, which has become widespread; as well as the increasing pollution of our drinking water systems by Endocrine Disruptive Chemicals (EDCs) and the dramatic pollution of our waterways and wetlands by heavy metals including uranium, arsenic, cyanide, cadmium and radio-active polodium.  

Nevertheless, in view of the concern of certain overseas environmental and anti-hunting groups regarding the use of lead in hunting and sport shooting firearm ammunition, NHSA has formulated the following position on the use of lead in hunting and sport shooting firearm ammunition, and states as follows:

1.   In view of the lack of peer-reviewed scientific evidence of lead poisoning of wildlife through the use of lead-based firearm ammunition, and noting that the lead in vehicle exhaust fumes and other forms of lead pollution of the air constitute a far greater health risk to man and animals alike, NHSA concludes that available scientific evidence does not justify restrictions on the use of lead-based hunting and sport shooting firearm ammunition.

2.   It is NHSA policy to liaise with authorities regarding the use of lead-based firearms ammunition in South Africa - it thus follows that any applicable legislation in this regard should be adhered to.

3.   NHSA will promote awareness and understanding of the recommendations on the safe and effective use of lead-based hunting and sport shooting firearm ammunition among the shooting fraternity in this country, as well as among those with responsibility for the management of shooting territories and/or shooting ranges.

4.   NHSA will incorporate these principles into all appropriate NHSA codes of practice and publications.

5.   NHSA will continue to collaborate with the authorities, research institutions, cartridge and firearm manufacturers, as well as firearm shops and retail outlets, to develop safe, effective, environmentally-acceptable and affordable non-lead ammunition and once, it becomes available, enable its users to meet NHSA’s Respect for Quarry objectives.

6.   NHSA will promote the policy set down in the Code of Conduct: namely that “In order to avoid lead shot contamination of wetlands important for feeding waterfowl, non-lead shot should be used for game and pest shooting over such wetlands.”

7.   NHSA is also aware that ingestion of spent lead of either shot or rifle and handgun ammunition, does occur in some game and gamebirds, and that secondary lead poisoning may occur in some birds of prey feeding on birds and animals themselves carrying ingested or embedded lead shot or lead from rifle and handgun ammunition. NHSA will continue to note their frequency, scale and potential impacts. NHSA, however, does not consider that the current evidence of risk, justifies restrictions on the use of lead in hunting and sport shooting firearms. There is no disputing the fact that if ingested, lead shot will kill gamebirds or birds of prey.  But so also will disease, agricultural poisons, cars, power lines, habitat destruction and predators.

8.   NHSA is aware of claims that human consumption of lead emanation from firearm ammunition in game meat (feathered or furred), can result in human ingestion of some trace lead, and will take note of any adverse health or other implications, should they occur and can be scientifically verified.

9.   NHSA does not consider that the anecdotal evidence of human health risk currently justifies regulations on the use of lead in hunting ammunition but will provide appropriate advice to consumers to minimise any ingestion of lead.

10.  Currently, most of the available alternatives to lead shot have been approved for use in American waterfowl shooting by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In the absence of any UK or European assurance scheme, this remains the best available assurance that such alternatives are acceptable for similar uses in South Africa. NHSA, however, is aware that the US system does not comprehensively assess the wider environmental (including human) implications of their use.  As and when new information questions any general environmental acceptability of non-lead shot and hunting and sport shooting firearms ammunition types, NHSA will review its advice on their use (always against the principle of one-shot-kill shots).

11.  With respect to target shooting, be that with rifles, handguns or shotguns, NHSA is aware of possible contamination of soil, waters, and the wider environment by spent shot or lead rifle and handgun ammunition. NHSA will offer advice on managing shooting ranges to control any potential contamination accordingly, and liaise with target-shooting interests to address any problems that may occur.   NHSA will continue assessing technological developments which might contribute to the management of spent lead from such activities.

12.  NHSA will continue to oppose any unwarranted restrictions on lead in ammunition for hunting and sport shooting firearms. Restrictions must be science-based and proportionate in respect of the responsible killing of quarry. Debates about possible restrictions must fully involve shooting interests, and should only lead to the introduction of alternative shotgun, rifle, and handgun ammunition, with the same ability to effect an assured one-shot-kill for all hunting ammunition.

13.  NHSA will continue to inform and advise its members and others on matters related to the use of lead in hunting and sport shooting firearm ammunition, and the responsible and effective use of realistic and practical alternatives. NHSA will liaise with relevant bodies both nationally and internationally as appropriate, and engage with governmental and non-governmental bodies in any debates over the future of all hunting and sport shooting ammunition, with a view to ensuring that all types of such ammunition will continue to be available unless a substantive environmental or other problem is shown to exist which cannot be effectively managed.

The reader is also referred to the following National & International positions on this issue:

1.    In a quick survey, which included only a small part of the firearm sector  (dealers) in this country, Andre van der Westhuizen of SA Wingshooters estimates that  31 million rounds of pre-loaded "traditional ammunition" was imported into SA in the 12 months preceding May 2016, and that a further 20 million preloaded rounds were produced in the same period by two "traditional ammunition" producing companies in SA.  The impact on a large number of sectors of the SA economy will thus be massive if a ban should be placed on the use of lead-based so-called traditional ammunition in this country (not to mention loss of SARS revenue on the manufacture and sale of these products).  At each round of preloaded "traditional ammunition" to on average cost (R10 per round), the income loss will be conservatively calculated to be more than R510 million per annum, with added job losses to be included in the equation.  These figures do not include figures related to lead-based bullets sold for reloading purposes.

2.    The Hunters Forum Explanatory Notes on the use of lead in hunting & sport shooting ammunition – Download here

3.    The National Shooting Sports Foundation (USA) opposition to banning of 'traditional ammunition" - Download here

4.    The Norwegian Government stance on the use of lead-based ammunition in hunting and sport shooting ammunition – Download here

5.    The FITASC position on the use of steel shot in clay target shooting – Download here

6.    The BASC Position on banning of lead-base shotshells in Europe and UK -  Read Here

7.    Proof that pesticides are the real danger to Vultures - read  HERE