Scientific Opinions

The crux of anti-lead ammunition and anti-hunting activists’ arguments against traditional lead ammunition rests on the misplaced assertion that the use of lead ammunition in hunting causes lead poisoning in wildlife. From upland game to scavenging animals, environmental activists claim that wildlife exposure to lead ammunition results in lead poisoning.

However, the science they present to support their allegations is riddled with false assumptions, faulty methodology, selective presentation of data and outright ignoring of plausible alternative explanations. Researchers have routinely used questionable sample sizes, cherry picked data to incriminate lead ammunition, and disregarded, and even deleted, unfavorable data that contradicts their hypothesis, in order to publish their conclusions that lead ammunition is poisoning wildlife.

While anti-lead ammunition proponents have experienced some success in selling their argument to regulators, elected representatives and the general public, key studies professing to link lead ammunition to lead poisoning have been criticized severely by other scientists, and some researchers have even been embroiled in lawsuits for withholding “original” data suggesting results contrary to their published conclusions.

As activist researchers twist and manipulate the scientific process to incriminate lead ammunition as the sole source of lead poisoning in hunting areas, they unconscionably and inexplicably ignore the presence of numerous non-ammunition lead sources that are common in the environment.

For example, lead-based paint, gasoline, pesticides and micro-trash, which include hardware such as galvanized screws, nuts, bolts washers and the like have all been shown to be available and attractive to condors. These items have appeared not only in their nests, but also in their digestive tract and the digestive tracts of their fledglings. However, activists and researchers advocating for lead bans consistently overlook such alternative sources. (Learn more about how activists have ignored the threat lead-based paint poses to California condors).

The failure of California’s lead ammunition ban, Assembly Bill (AB) 821, to decrease lead poisoning of condors in the “Condor Zone,” conclusively proves that alternative sources of lead poisoning cannot be ignored.

In 2007, proponents of AB 821 claimed that condors were being poisoned by lead ammunition. They promised that if hunters stopped using lead ammunition, the poisoning would stop. Despite the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s records showing a 99% compliance rate by hunters with the lead ammunition ban, since the passage of AB 821 the incidence of lead exposure and poisoning in condors remains static and actually has increased slightly, compounding the problem and leaving multiple condors dead.

In response to the failure of AB 821, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) recently formed a lead working committee to analyze the science regarding lead ammunition and the alleged lead poisoning in wildlife, before considering any expansion of the AB 821 lead ammunition ban. Instead of working with the Commission, the lead ammunition ban proponents again circumvented the Commission’s scrutiny of the science and sponsored a new statewide lead ammunition ban bill (AB 711).

The failure of California’s lead ammunition ban to successfully address lead poisoning in condors strongly indicates that alternative sources of lead, other than hunters’ ammunition, is the primary cause of lead exposure, toxicity and mortality in condors and other affected species. There is a growing body of science that examines the alleged nexus between lead ammunition and lead poisoning in wildlife and critically evaluates the alternative sources of lead in the environment. has compiled these reference materials to present the real facts and truth regarding the debate on the use of lead ammunition in hunting.