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Animal rights activists aim to ban lead bullets for hunting

Environmentalists and animal rights groups have been pushing for the state of California to ban the use of lead bullets for all types of hunting in order to protect the endangered California condor.

The Contra Costa Times reports that lead ammo is already banned for hunting in the range of the condor — between Los Angeles and San Jose — but groups say that a statewide ban is necessary due to overwhelming evidence that condors and other protected birds are dying after eating dead animals shot by hunters using lead bullets. Activists argue that bullets made from alternative materials like copper are less damaging.

“Countless wild animals suffer and die needlessly every year from the continued use of lead ammunition,” said Jennifer Fearing, state director of the Humane Society. “It is put in the environment and stays there. It’s toxic, and it’s cumulative.”

The Humane Society joined the Audubon California and Defenders of Wildlife to push for legislation banning lead bullets for hunting. The legislation is expected to be introduced on Friday.

Activists are also asking the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to pass a lead bullet ban.

“We’re not against hunting,” said Dan Taylor, public policy director for Audubon California. “But hunting is a privilege. For hunting to continue in a state like California it must be done in the most ecologically and sound way possible.”

However, the National Rifle Association argues that copper bullets cost more than lead and don’t shoot the same.

“These people want to ban hunting. Go to their cocktail parties and snuggle up to them, and that’s what they’ll tell you,” said Don Saba, who is on the NRA’s board of directors. “They characterize hunters as crazy rednecks, even as they talk about tolerance and diversity.”

According to the group, this is the latest example in a 20-year trend where urban residents and environmentalists have taken the dominant role in setting rules for hunting and fishing. Last year, such groups were able to pass laws banning the hunting of bears and bobcats using hounds.

“It’s far more than chipping away at hunters’ rights,” Saba said. “There’s an anti-firearms mentality. Their ultimate goal is to ban guns.”

The number of documented California condors has grown to 407, with 231 living in the wild across California, Arizona, Utah, and Mexico.

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