Hopes are high in Norway’s hunting community that an existing lead shot ban could soon be reversed

Norwegian hunters could be allowed to use lead shot again after the country’s main political parties have pledged their support for a change in the law, the Norwegian Hunters Association (Jegernes Interesseorganisasjon (JI)) has announced.

The use of lead shot for hunting has been illegal in Norway since 2005 and the JI has been campaigning for a reversal since then. When the lead shot ban was passed, hunters criticised the move on both animal welfare and environmental grounds, saying it was hasty and lacked a solid basis in fact. They argued that the alternative non-lead ammunition available does not kill as cleanly or as efficiently as lead, and therefore causes unnecessary suffering to quarry. They also argued that the potential adverse effects of such substitute materials on health and the environment had not been studied in sufficient detail.

The hunters’ objections fell on deaf ears and, as recently as 2013, a move to bring back lead was defeated by a majority in the Norwegian parliament. However, after years of campaigning the tide finally appears to be turning and the JI has recently received statements of support for a partial repeal of the ban from Norway’s Conservative Party, Progress Party, Christian Democratic Party, Center Party and the Social Democratic Party, which would give a clear majority in a parliamentary vote.

A number of European countries, including the UK, are currently conducting studies or assessing evidence on the potential effects of using lead shot for human and animal health. Studies to evaluate the possible impacts of alternatives are also underway and beginning to effect policy making, resulting in Denmark passing a ban on the use of tungsten in ammunition for hunting earlier this year (News, 23 January). The hoped-for change of direction in Norway could have significant implications for other European countries where full or partial lead shot bans for gameshooting are already in place or are being considered.

Tim Bonner, director of campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, whose campaigning activities include fighting against further unjustified restrictions on the use of lead shot in the UK, told Shooting Times: “The Norwegians have concluded that there is no evidence of any real harm from the use of lead in shotgun cartridges and they believe that none of the alternatives to lead ammunition are as effective. The clear lesson to take from this is that we should only act on evidence when considering restricting types of ammunition and that those countries that act in haste may well end up having to repent later.”