Non-lead rifle ammunition: Danish hunters’ attitudes

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    Background: Lead particles from hunting rifle ammunition become embedded in the tissue of shot animals and pose a health risk to predators and scavengers that eat discarded offal or parts of non-retrieved carcasses of shot game animals, as well as to humans who consume game. Copper and copper–zinc alloys are the most widely used alternatives to leaded ammunition. In Denmark, there has been a growing awareness of the toxic environmental effects of lead ammunition and the Danish government, supported by the Danish Hunters’ Association, announced in November 2020 a forthcoming ban on the use of lead-based bullets for hunting purposes intended to take effect in 2023. The question that remains to be addressed is how the Danish hunting community perceives lead ammunition as a problem and non-lead alternatives as a solution, and whether the willingness to change demonstrated by the hunters’ representatives reflects the attitude of the individual hunters. We studied this in a survey targeting 6000 randomly selected Danish rifle hunters, mapping their knowledge and concerns regarding lead rifle ammunition as well as their use of lead and non-lead ammunition. Results: We found that approximately one-fifth of the use of rifle ammunition for hunting in Denmark in 2019 was non-lead. Hunters’ knowledge of and concern for the adverse impacts of lead ammunition and the opportunities to switch to non-lead alternatives were generally limited. However, some showed an open-minded attitude and we found that such knowledge and concern increased the likelihood of hunters deciding to use non-lead ammunition. Hunters mainly got their information from hunting organizations and colleagues and expressed a distinct lack of information and guidance on the topic from ministerial authorities responsible for hunting administration. Conclusions: Some hunters have already changed to use non-lead rifle ammunition completely or in part, and others show an open attitude to discussing the issue and receiving more information particularly from hunting authorities. Some hunters demonstrated a critical or negative attitude towards a change. Communication of the adverse impacts of leaded ammunition in terms of the risk of lead poisoning to wildlife and humans and the opportunities of switching to the existing efficient and safe alternatives is essential regardless of the formal approach and will be crucial for the effectiveness of the regulation announced by the Danish government.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number41
    JournalEnvironmental Sciences Europe
    Number of pages14
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


    • Copper ammunition
    • Hunter resistance
    • Lead ammunition
    • Regulation
    • Transition
    • Voluntary


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