Lead ammunition temporarily safe from enforced ban in Europe

Lead ammunition is saved from a ban in Europe... for now!

Lead ammunition is saved from a ban in Europe... for now! - Credit: Archant

A last minute intervention by the Czech Republic has pushed back an EU member state online vote which could have seen lead ammunition banned in Europe

Online voting on the lead ammunition debate by EU member state representatives was halted recently thanks to intervention from the Czech Republic; the Czech Republic instead requested a face-to-face reconvening of the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) committee, which is responsible for preparing lead ammunition proposals across Europe. It is not now known exactly when this meeting will take place, but it might not be until 2021, which provides more time for reflection on the topic and re-drafting of overly restrcitive or unworkable proposals. In other words, lead ammunition is safe from an enforced ban in Europe for the time being.


In a dramatic intervention by the Czech Republic the European Commission (EC) was forced to drop a vote by EU member state representatives on proposals that could have banned the use and possession of lead shot across huge swathes of Europe and the UK in two years’ time.

Five years ago the European Commission requested the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to prepare proposals to restrict the use of lead shot over wetlands.

Mission creep by officials involved in the process resulted in proposals that went far beyond what was intended.

A ban on lead shot over wetlands makes sense, but not with a proposed unworkably broad definition of wetlands that would have covered anything from temporary puddles of water on clay grounds to every moorland in the UK. A ban on the use of lead shot within 100m of wetlands was also proposed and a vague ban on the possession of lead shot when shooting on or within 100m of wetlands.

After fierce lobbying on all sides of the lead ammunition debate, an agreement could not be reached in a Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) committee meeting. To force through a decision, EC officials imposed a 21-day written vote for the member state representatives to take part in.

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Victory for those that wanted a very wide-ranging ban looked certain until the Czech Republic intervened.

The Czech Republic, which has a strong shooting tradition, sensible gun laws and government support, used EU procedures to halt the online voting by requesting a reconvened face to face meeting of the REACH committee.

It is not certain when the next REACH committee meeting will be held and that might not be until 2021, which provides an opportunity for reflection and a rethink on poorly drafted proposals.

A BASC statement on its website stated: “As the UK is currently in the transition phase of leaving the European Union, further EU restrictions on lead ammunition will impact us and we have limited lobbying power because our MEPs have already left their positions.

“BASC continues to give staff and financial support to its European hunting partners to fight against these unworkable proposals. A key part of our support is that we chair the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) Ammunition Working Group.

“BASC will continue to fight against disproportionate and unsubstantiated restrictions on the use of lead ammunition.

“We have been leading this fight for 40 years.

“If the EC proposal on restricting lead shot for hunting over wetlands is passed that could lead to further restrictions in the UK within two years and viable alternatives to lead ammunition are simply not yet available in sufficient quantities or calibres either here or in mainland Europe.

“At the same time, together with eight other UK organisations, we are encouraging a smooth voluntary transition away from the use of lead shot for live quarry over the next five years.

“These areas of work are not mutually exclusive.

“In summary we are working to prevent bad laws from entering into force whilst encouraging a five year research and development period for viable alternatives to lead shot for live quarry shooting.”