Anthony Armentano, exclusive to Global Animal

The battle in Sacramento to pass Assembly Bill  711, which would ban the use of lead bullets in California, is catching the state’s condors in the crossfire. The Humane Society, Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife, and multiple environmental groups are pushing to make California the first state to ban lead ammunition. The organizations support the adoption of Assembly Bill 711 because lead ammunition is devastating to animal life, especially scavengers like the condor.

A California bill for the ban of lead-ammunition hopes to aid the recovery of the California condor. Photo Credit: Ade's Pets
A California bill for the ban of lead ammunition hopes to aid the recovery of the California condor. Photo Credit: Ade’s Pets

When a hunter uses lead ammunition to kill an animal, the bullet fragments upon impact and spreads itself throughout the animal. When scavenger birds, like the bald eagle or California condor, prey on the hunted carcasses, they ingest the bits of lead. And that lead poisoning is often fatal and always destructive to health. 

The Condor population is under constant pressure. With only 400 of the birds in existence, preservation of the species remains an extremely delicate operation.

With less than two dozen of these birds alive in 1982, conservationists have done a remarkable job in aiding the species, and they hope to continue with their progress. A partial ban of lead-ammunition exists in parts of the condors’ territory, but poisoned animals are still being found.

“There is no safe level of lead for human consumption,” State Assemblyman, Anthony Rendon, a supporter of the bill, explained.

The bill’s proponents have suggested lead bullet alternatives, like copper bullets, which are already used by hunters.

Lead products are highly poisonous if consumed, and lead bullets are creating a problem for the enviornment. Photo Credit: Nuclead Inc
Lead products are highly poisonous if consumed, and lead bullets are creating a problem for the enviornment. Photo Credit: Nuclead Inc

The ban faces strong opposition from the National Rifle Association. They claim it’s a financial conspiracy since copper bullets cost twice as much as lead bullets (about $40 vs. $20 for 20 bullets) and insinuate they’re being persecuted by anti-gun lobbyists.  

Bill supporters continue to rally against the opposition in hopes that people turn their favor toward a lead ban. Many point out the U.S. military has recently shifted to non-lead bullets, and hope hunters will follow in the armed forces’ footsteps.

“This is the kind of issue where hunters should be taking the lead,” State Director of the Humane Society of the United States, Jennifer Fearing, said in response to the issue.

If lead bullets cause environmental devastation, pretty soon hunters will have nothing left to hunt.

On August 13th, Sen. John McCain congratulated the states of Arizona and Utah, who supplied non-lead ammunition to hunters in an effort to preserve the California condor. Even though Sen. McCain doesn’t support the bill banning lead ammunition in California, he agrees the government should suggest voluntary incentive programs encouraging the use of non-lead ammunition.

Bill 711 was purposed back in March, and has received support from a number of State Legislators, public health organizations, and even hunters. Let’s keep the ball rolling—make a call your district representative and let them know where you stand on the issue. 




  1. It was the ddt and now its other chemicals that are harmful. Lead shot passes with little or even less residue in the system that can be filtered out of the body with certain dietary treatments…ie: boron, elemental silver, miso soup, raw cannabis…etc. Happy hunting folks!!!!!!!!!!

  2. One of the first steps in getting hunters to voluntarily adopt lead alternatives is to stop perpetuating myth and misinformation.

    In this article, there are several statements that are either factually inaccurate or misleading.

    First, lead bullets and fragments are NOT "highly posionous if consumed." Any hunter, or anyone who has eaten game provided by hunters can attest to this. For mammals, including humans, there is absolutely no evidence that eating game killed with lead is dangerous to health. People who don't hunt or shoot can be easily misled by the implication, however, it is critical to note the difference between eating metallic lead (bullets, shot) and ingesting the lead in chemical compounds like paint chips or gasoline.

    Second, the US Military is, and has been, assessing various lead alternatives. However, they have not "shifted to non-lead bullets." An interesting fact is that the military did try bullets made of tungsten, and found that this non-lead bullet presented a far greater risk of groundwater contamination and carcinogenic properties. They immediately reverted to lead ammo. They have also tried various other alternatives, particularly for training, with mixed results. It is worth considering that the military is having this level of difficulty finding a replacement for lead ammo, even though they only use a relatively small number of variations in caliber. Imagine the difficulty for hunters who use a wide array of calibers and chamberings.

    Third, California has banned lead for hunting since 2007, yet condors are still turning up with lead toxicity almost seven years later. Why would anyone think that expanding that ban to the remainder of the state would make any difference? The fact is that no one knows for sure that lead ammo is the core problem, nor does anyone know if banning lead ammo will really have any significant, long-term impact in saving the condors.

    John McCain is absolutely right to recommend and support a program of education and voluntary lead reduction. The way to get there is not to abuse the trust of hunters and outdoorsmen with misinformation and half-truths, but to work together with facts and reason to build understanding about the collateral impacts of lead ammo. A good start is to recognize that the continued use of lead ammo doesn't constitute an environmental catastrophe, but for the truly conservation-minded, it's not a bad idea to switch. In the big picture, it's an individual choice, just like the choice to drive a hybrid rather than an SUV.