'Human swan' calls for lead shot ban


Sacha Dench, who earned the nickname 'the human swan' after tracing Bewick's Swan's migratory route from Russia to the UK by paramotor, has added her voice to mounting calls for a lead shot ban.

During her 2016 odyssey, whiched spanned 7,000 km and 11 European countries, Sacha met with communities and hunters across the Bewick's Swan flight path to discuss the issues facing these endangered birds. Many of them, along with other waterbirds, die each year in significant numbers due to poisoning from spent lead shot.

Lead poisoning can kill migratory Bewick's Swans (Mike Trew).

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She said: "Lead shot is highly toxic and removing it from our environment would protect the lives of millions of waterbirds. This is not an attack on hunting or hunters. I’ve spoken to hundreds of hunters unaware of the terrible consequences of lead poisoning who have said they were willing to switch to non-lead ammunition as a result. 

"With some practice, they have found the non-toxic alternatives to be just as effective as lead. It's clear what we have to do. We must restrict lead and ensure the widespread availability of non-toxic ammunition for hunters to help pave the path to a lead-free future."

Lead, which was removed from paint, petrol and pipes decades ago, is considered by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to be a "non-threshold substance" which means that no amount of exposure is safe for humans. It doesn't just poison birds, it contaminates the soil and enters the human food chain, where it can cause developmental issues in children. Yet still over 20,000 tonnes is strewn by shotguns across the European countryside every year, concentrating it in the habitats of wild birds which breed and feed there. Four million birds are poisoned each year and a quarter of them die.

There is consensus among European scientists and senior shooting leaders that lead gunshot should be restricted and replaced with the widely available non-toxic alternatives.