An animal rights group wants lead hunting ammunition to be fully banned after 20 cows developed lead poisoning at a Southland farm.
The cows were grazing in a gun club's paddock at Otautau near Invercargill and another 80 cows had to be put down.
They ate tainted beet fodder which is more likely to pick up traces of lead than other crops.
The Nightcaps Clay Target Club said the farmer knew the risk but kept leasing the land.
There are regulations around where lead shot can be used in this country but the executive director of Save Animals From Exploitation, Hans Kriek, said some hunters were getting around these.
"We know that in New Zealand thousands of duck shooters still use shotguns that take lead shot and we know that every time they fire on cartridge about 200 lead pellets will end up in our environment.
"Those lead pellets get digested by ducks and they die a slow and nasty death because of lead poisoning, so why are we actually allowing lead shot to still be used in New Zealand?"
He said the use of lead shot should be stopped completely.
"The shooters now get around it by using a different gauge shotgun... and as we understand it there are still thousands and thousands of hunters using lead shot every year."
Mr Kriek said it was known there was lead in the land and he can not understand why animals were allowed to graze there.
"We hope that the suffering of these cows will actually be enough motivation for farmers to make sure that they will never graze their animals anywhere near gun clubs," Mr Kriek said.
Restrictions in place
The farmer involved has been put under a Ministry for Primary Industries surveillance notice. He declined to be interviewed and referred questions to Fonterra.
The MPI said the notice meant none of the farmer's cattle can be traded, including bobby calves.
They also cannot be slaughtered or moved out of his control until an agreed risk strategy is in place.
Sheep which were grazing near the gun club have also been put on a surveillance list and will be monitored.
The ministry said it was not aware of any other incidents in New Zealand like this.
Fonterra said there was no food safety risk because the herd was not milking when it was exposed to lead.
It has since reviewed farmers who are near gun clubs and is compiling these results.
Timeline of the poisoning
- A Southland veterinary practice tells the MPI on July 23 that 20 dairy cows died from high-level lead poisoning on a local farm
- The farmer chooses to put down the remaining 80 cattle and the fodder beet is destroyed
- The cows are disposed of at a site approved by Environment Southland
- The farmer is put under a surveillance notice by the MPI
- Sheep near the gun club are put on a surveillance list
- Fonterra undertakes blood testing of animals and tests soil and milk
- Fonterra starts a review of farmers who are near gun clubs and is putting results together
- The Nightcaps Clay Target Club expects soil tests to be known by September 12