IFA to consider seeking compensation after lead ammunition ban vote

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is to consider seeking compensation from the government for gun-owning farmers after an EU vote to ban lead ammunition around wetlands.

On Thursday of last week (September 3), a vote was passed in the EU’s REACH (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals) committee to submit a proposed ban to the European Parliament for consideration.

Although the proposal has to go through a process in the parliament, it is not expected to face serious opposition.

Speaking to AgriLand, William Shortall, the IFA’s health and safety executive, said this will leave some guns “worthless”, with farmers facing replacement costs of €1,800 to €2,000.

The purpose of the ban is ostensibly to protect birds from ingesting spent shot and dying of lead poisoning.

However, Shortall cited a study from last year in which some 1,200 duck gizzards were examined, with traces of lead only being discovered in 0.7% of them, a lower rate of incidence than previously seen.

One of the primary concerns over the proposed regulation is the definition of ‘wetland’.

Using his own farm as an example, Shortall explained that the yard is 86m from a drain that only has water in it for three or four months of the year. However, this would be classed as a wetland, meaning the use of lead ammunition around or near it would be a breach of the proposed regulation.

Shortall said that the IFA had previously brought these concerns to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), which initially seemed responsive to those issues.

However, something evidently changed at a government level, as the Irish representative on the REACH committee voted in favour of the regulation, despite the previous government saying it would not back the ban.

It is understood that the Irish representative voted in favour of the ban under the recommendation of the Green Party’s Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State with responsibility for heritage.

‘Making criminals out of farmers’

The effect of the ban, should it come into effect, Shortall explained, would be to make some guns essentially “worthless” as the lower-standard guns most often used by farmers would not be capable of firing steel shot (the most readily available replacement for lead).

In order to fire steel shot with sufficient power to humanely dispatch a target, more powerful cartridges will be required which will not be safe to use in some guns.

As there is no facility in Ireland to proof gun barrels, this will force farmers to spend between €1,800 and €2,000 on new guns, Shortall said.

It’s making criminals in out of farmers.

Although the IFA has not made any official moves to seeking compensation, it is something that is being considered. Shortall said that the association is also looking to meet with Minister Noonan on the issue.

“It’s a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it didn’t have to be an issue,” Shortall said.

He also stressed that for most farmers, guns are used for necessary purposes, such as protecting sheep from dog attacks.

“[For those farmers] it’s like a fork in a shed. It’s a tool to do a job,” he argued.