Wednesday, March 4, 2009

CNN, The Hog Blog and lead ammo

Going through all my news alerts this morning, I found one I just knew I'd have to forward to Phillip Loughlin, better known in our little world as the proprietor of The Hog Blog.

The story was on The headline: Should hunters switch to 'green' bullets? Lead ammo is Phillip's big issue.

So I click on the link, and there's Phillip, right in the first paragraph. "Three years ago, Phillip Loughlin made a choice he knew would brand him as an outsider with many of his fellow hunters..."


And as I read the story by CNN's John Sutter, I found myself impressed with it because of the even-handed way it was written. I haven't heard from Phillip about it yet, but I can tell you as a journalist and journalism educator that this one follows all the rules - factual and nonjudgmental.

Beyond that, by quoting Phillip - who is both the beginning and the end of this piece - the story does something that I encourage my students to do: When you're writing about a dispute, don't just quote flaming extremists, which is a potentially unethical tactic that can be used to make one side look unreasonable. Phillip is in the thoughtful middle - he doesn't use lead ammo anymore, but nor does he advocate banning lead ammo.

This piece could've really slammed hunters. Don't get me wrong: I understand and believe the arguments that lead ammo poses a negligible health risk to hunters and their families. And I know firsthand that copper is way more expensive, and can be a bitch to sight in. But honestly, I think some hunters are so freaked out about what a lead ban would do to our numbers - a real risk - that they have come off looking like they're in denial about science, and unconcerned about the environment. That makes us easy to ridicule.

That's why I'm really glad to see Phillip out there as the one representing us.

So what do I think about potential lead bans? I've said it in comments on Phillip's site, but I think it's worth saying here: I believe we will ultimately lose this debate, most certainly in California, if not nationwide, so hunters would be best served by focusing on a reasonable transition to non-toxic ammunition.

It will not be reasonable in California. It will be done badly here, because most California policymakers (with some notable exceptions) don't give a damn about hunters.

But Arizona has provided a workable model: Instead of banning lead ammo, it provided free non-toxic ammo and asked for a voluntary switch. That state achieved 80 percent compliance without alienating hunters. Smart, huh? An August 2008 report of the American Ornithologists’ Union and Audubon California - two groups that are very concerned about lead poisoning in condors - praised that state's efforts and called it a model for other states.

I am now ready for the hail of electronic gunfire I will receive for being a capitulator. But don't forget to congratulate Phillip for his appearance on You can see what he had to say about the story by clicking here.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

As usual Holly you're the brains of this outfit.
Ps As i've been at trade school for the last few months I've become aware of just how toxic lead is, to humans and farm animals watered through lead pipes. I really had no idea before, sure I knew it wasn't good, but my eyes have really been opened to it. During the last couple of weeks I've been making trade pieces (examples of difficult roofing work) from lead and once your aware of it's danger its amazing how it gets everywhere.
Do people who shoot muzzle loaders use a barrier cream on their hands? If not, well i hope they've already had kids!

What's my point?
The context of this argument is to far out of sight, condors are distant, not manny people have seen them, if the context was moved closer to home the idea of a lead ban wouldn't seem so unreasonable.

Phillip said...

Thanks, Holly, and well said!

I was also very impressed with Mr. Sutter's article.

On first read, I thought it painted me a little more sympathetic to the anti-lead cause than I really am... but on second read and considering what I've said (both on the Hog Blog and in the interview), I think that he really got to the essence of my opinions. I feel that I made a pro-active choice, and I think it's a good call for other hunters... if they CAN switch, it's worth consideration.

In the meantime, I hope folks who are against the ban will consider their arguments carefully, because the misinformation and rhetoric of fear are only going to continue to undermine the little support we have outside of our own community.

Let's find a workable solution, and get together behind it. Otherwise, the rest of the country can look at CA as an example of what happens when hunters simply deny the problem and hope it goes away.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Well said!

SimplyOutdoors said...

I think the whole article was very well done, and I left Phillip a congratulatory comment on his site.

That is too cool. He's officially a celebrity now.

Josh said...

Amen, and congrats to Phillip!

No flaming from here, I'm on your side, Cazadora. However, we could do far, far worse than Phillip's position, and I think we'd all get publicly behind it, especially considering your information about the Arizona studies. Cool stuff.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Phillip has weighed in on this on his blog - click here to check it out.

Blessed said...

We're getting more and more celebrities around here... :)

Thanks for the heads up - I've been in a news vacuum this week...

sportingdays said...

I've been phasing out my lead ammo use for a couple of years now and have no problem with eliminating it altogether.

The turning point for me was three years ago with the birth of our first child. Just didn't want to feed my baby lead and at the same time wanted him to develop a taste and love for wild game, which he now has.

Another convincing factor for me was the growing effectiveness of nontoxic shot for waterfowl hunting. Steel shot has made huge performance improvements since it first hit the market and other nontoxics outperform lead and steel, in my opinion.

I now use nontoxic loads/ammo in 90 percent of my hunting. I have a weakness for small-gauge shotguns and the nontoxic offerings in 28 gauge and 16 gauge, especially, are pretty limited and pricey, especially in the target loads.

I say let's get the lead out. I think the manufacturers would react pretty quickly with more alternatives as they've already done in the waterfowl and upland categories.

Live to Hunt.... said...

Not sure where I am on this one yet Holly. I work in a science-based health profession and I am always shaking my head by the 'junk science' that passes as Chapter and Verse. As one of our researchers says, anyone can beat the data until it tells you what you want it to hear. So true.

You're one point that is SO true is that CA lawmakers will probably look to AZ and see that it makes sense and is a good workable solution... then do the absolute opposite.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Good point. The only science that really freaks me out on this subject is on the condors, because there are some unknown factors there.

But lots of people have replicated the study showing lead fragments in meat - people whom I don't consider to be our enemies. And it's been pretty clearly documented that lead levels in hunters may be elevated, but not to levels that should concern anyone. My understanding of the research - and in this case I certainly haven't read all of it - is that the only places you really find problems with lead levels in blood are with hard-core subsistence hunters.

Not that any of that matters, because they'll make of that what they want. One of our own F&G Commission members was quoted in the newspaper saying he was sure that if hunters knew about this they wouldn't want to harm their families - as if we are actually harming families.

Andrew Campbell said...

Holly: thanks for getting to the nuances again. I think we all know, perhaps even intuitively, that lead is bad. For shotgun hunters (as opposed to target shooters)using factory loads (as opposed to hand-loaders using bulk lead), I don't think there is a comprehensive scientific opinion as to the level of threat that the lead from shotgun shot poses. However, I would suggest that arguably the next biggest challenge we will face will be about hulls and wadding.

This is one reason that I choose to use paper hulls and felt wads for bird-hunting... and frankly why I prefer shotguns with extractors not ejectors. If in the off-chance I lose a hull, I know it will breakdown in a fraction of the time a plastic hull will. And when I do shoot, I know I haven't just sent a plastic shot-cup into the woods for a critter to inadvertently chomp on.

Thanks again.


NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh Andrew, now you're making me feel guilty. I always do my best to pick up whatever shells don't sink when I'm duck hunting, but I'm sure I miss more than half. I hardly ever find them when upland hunting. And the wads are a lost cause.

So, being a female whom people are apparently loathe to attack, I have not attracted the hail of electronic gunfire I expected. But Phillip has ... or at least he's starting to. Anyone who cares to lend a hand should click here.

sportingdays said...

Andrew brings up a good point. Why do shotgun hunters, who wouldn't otherwise leave beer cans, snack wrappers and other litter in the field, feel absolutely OK with leaving their plastic shotgun hulls in the field? I've never understood this. I know of at least one company that's now making biodegradable shotgun hulls, but still. I think we need to change that behavior.

Phillip said...

Sportingdays, a lot of shotgunners are catching onto the idea of policing their brass when they're done. I think that for years, nobody ever really thought about it.

Like so many other things, I think it seemed like a minor issue to leave behind a small stack of hulls. No one considered the cumulative impact, until the 1970s brought us the "Give a hoot, don't pollute" campaigns. (It was probably also never much of a problem until then, since many manufacturers were still making paper shell casings.)

I am glad to see the evidence that many shotgunners are actually starting to pick up behind themselves... although there will probably always be the uneducated and the inconsiderate.

Tom Sorenson said...

Alright so I'm a self proclaimed ignorant feller, but my issue with science is that often times results are skewed towards whatever side the financial contributor to the research is on. Why else do we have disagreements between scientists on a regular basis? Whether it be with how the wolves effect game populations, or global warming, or lead vs. alternative ammo - all cases have scientists proclaiming exact opposites of one another. So who are we to believe?

Regardless - chalk another guy up to the celebrity status, eh? Congrats to Phillip - pretty danged impressive!

Phillip said...

Tom, thanks.

But at risk of drawing more ire down on myself, there are NO scientists out there right now proclaiming that lead ammo does NOT present some possible dangers. Likewise, at this point there are no REAL scientists out there proclaiming a definite negative impact either... just that evidence suggests a possibility.

This is possibly the reason that the controversy is so heated... no one has provided any definitive answers. The call for a lead ammo ban is based purely on theoretical and inconclusive data.

Boy, I just can't leave this topic alone. Are ya'll sick of me yet?

Jesses Hunting And Outdoors said...

The lead ban is a flanking movement around the current gun laws. You can't get the guns banned so you go back door and get the ammo banned.

I know several people who didn't shoot squeaks (ground squirrels) this year either because there was no non lead ammo for their gun or they couldn't get the ammo and get sighted in in time for the deer season.

Cause and effect folks.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Well, that's at least partly true (though the condor-sympathizers have made it clear condors need hunters to live).

But Jesse, only 6 percent of Americans hunt. Way more than 6 percent of Americans know lead is a toxic substance. Do you think those people will think lead is OK if we tell them the antis are out to get us? They won't.

It really doesn't matter what you believe is true, or what is true. In politics, perception is reality. So what matters is that we make our case in a credible and compelling way. And merely yelling, "This is a ruse!" is neither credible nor compelling to members of the general public, nor to the policymakers who rely on them for votes.

Galen Geer said...

Did I send you the story on this subject that I did last year for "Whitetails Unlimited"? I too tried to be balanced and I've been attacked by some of my "friends" for "turning" on hunting. Huh?
Here in North Dakota, where a big part of the story broke there is still a mountain of misinformation. The doctor who did the X-rays is not an anti, I know several of the people involved in the falcon group and they are not antis but are avid hunters. The problem is, as with many stories such as this, what began as a simple truth--lead bullets leave particles around the meat exploded into myth. Lead in meat has actually been pretty well known for as long as I've been a hunter. My father knew it in the 1950s and taught me to always cut away the damaged meat and to look for pieces of lead in the meat that I was grinding (the lead could jam the grinder, not for health issues). As in many cases the antis have found a small truth and tried to make into a disaster for everyone. As for myself, I'm staying with my ammunition and doing what I've always done--shoot well and use common sense. glg(aka as Papa-G :) )

Josh said...

Just a note that this CNN report got a mention at the Environmental Economics website: