Fly-tipping linked to surge in lead poisoning animal deaths

More farm animals died from incidents of lead poisoning in 2020 than in 2018 and 2019 combined.

Fly-tipping linked to surge in lead poisoning animal deaths Scottish Government

Fly-tipping is thought to have killed farm animals in incidents of lead poisoning deaths which almost doubled last year.

The metal is highly toxic and causes nervous disease, blindness, infertility and even death. Poisoning mainly effects cattle and sheep, with young cattle most at risk due to their curious nature.

One farmer lost eight cows and found batteries dumped by fly-tippers in the field.

Steven Barron, of Barron Findowrie Ltd in Angus, said: “The animals affected suffered greatly with symptoms including grinding teeth, bobbing head, frothing at mouth, muscle tremors and some collapsed as their calves tried to feed.

“Some animals were still feeling the effects of the poisoning weeks after with one cow unable to feed its calf and concerns about its fertility, which is a potential disaster for a cattle breeding herd.”

Across ten incidents of lead poisoning in 2020, Food Standards Scotland found 18 animals had died – more than in 2018 and 2019 combined.

The main sources of lead on farms are electric batteries, flaking lead paint or bonfire ash. But, in some cases it is believed fly-tipping has been responsible for incidents.

Food Standards Scotland’s Head of Food Crime and Incidents Unit, Ron McNaughton, said: “We have now received ten incident reports since April 2020 caused by lead exposure and poisoning, which is three more than in 2018 and 2019 combined.

“We have had no reports of illness as a result of lead on-farm incidents, however lead contamination found beyond legal limits in meat, offal or milk being sold to consumers may put them at risk and would be unlawful.

“To minimise the risk of lead contamination, we are asking farmers across the country to check fields and barns regularly for sources of lead such as old batteries and machinery, and also watch out for fly tipping.”

Sheila Voas, Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer, said that fly-tippers maybe have not considered the “devastating consequences” dumping their rubbish can have on animals.

She said: “Lead poisoning causes severe health and welfare problems for affected animals as well as distress to those involved in caring for them and significant financial losses.

“As we approach turnout time I would urge all farmers to check their fields carefully, including for possible sources of lead and to remove them before turnout.”

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