Sunday

26th Jan 2020

Bird killing to continue after Malta rejects hunt ban

  • Valetta: The quail remains under threat when Malta's spring hunt begins this week (Photo: Ronny Siegel)

Malta’s controversial spring hunt of thousands of migrating birds from Africa to Europe will remain after a referendum aimed at banning the annual hunt was defeated.

The Mediterranean Island’s 340,000 votes decided by a narrow margin of 2,200 votes - 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent margin - to retain the practice which bitterly divides its people and has drawn criticism from the European Commission and a number of EU countries.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Hunters which breach these limits face a €5,000 fine (Photo: EUobserver)

The referendum was held in response to a voters' petition for a ban on the two-week hunting of birds between 14 April to 30 April.

Malta was given a derogation from EU rules on birds to allow a limited form of its spring hunting season to continue.

However, after being taken to court by the European Commission for breaching its directive on Wild Birds, the European Court of Justice ruled that spring hunting could only be permitted under certain strict conditions which did not endanger bird species.

But the issue has remained a controversial one for the island, where the hunting lobby remains a powerful force in both the governing Labour and opposition Nationalist parties. Labour prime minister Joseph Muscat and Nationalist leader Simon Busuttil both back the hunters.

Muscat said that the referendum marked the “last chance” for hunters, who “have to understand that the story has changed for them, totally”.

“Practically half the people do not want spring hunting to continue,” he said, adding that hunters “have to understand that they must respect the law in the spring hunting season that will open on Tuesday.”

The spring hunt limits the number of birds that can be killed to 11,000 turtle doves and 5,000 quail, while hunters are allowed to kill no more than two birds a day, and are limited to four birds each throughout the whole season. Hunters who breach these limits face a €5,000 fine.

In a press conference following the vote on Sunday (12 April), the leaders of the ‘Yes’ campaign warned hunters “to show that you are not the people the ‘No’ camp tried to depict you as”.

“Have fun hunting but remember that the first mistake and the first illegality will have to be carried by all,” Joe Perici Calascione, who leads the hunters’ association, told supporters.

For their part, BirdLife Malta, which had led calls for a ban, described the vote as “a missed opportunity to end the killing of birds in spring.”

Axel Hirschfeld, a spokesman for the Campaign Against Bird Slaughter, told Maltese media that conservationists would be in Malta from 17 April to 3 May with 24 international volunteers to monitor the spring hunting season with video cameras, spotting scopes and night vision equipment.

Maltese hunters see red over EU bird ban proposal

The European Parliament's petitions committee has adopted a report backing banning bird hunting in Malta during the spring season, attracting vitriol from the small state's big hunting lobby.

Malta taken to EU court over finch trapping

The European Commission has announced that it will be referring Malta to the European Court of Justice over the government's decision to allow finch trapping.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan premier refuses to step down, despite ruling
  2. UK set to support new fossil fuel projects in Africa
  3. Leftist MEPs to visit jailed Catalan MEP
  4. Bulgaria may expel Russian diplomats over 'espionage'
  5. EU, China, others agree on WTO body to settle disputes
  6. EU Commission makes move against Poland on judges law
  7. Soros pledges $1bn for liberal universities
  8. Merkel: Germany unprepared for 2015 refugee crisis

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. AI must have human oversight, MEPs recommend
  2. Second-hand cars flaw in EU Green Deal
  3. Why do EU arms end up in Libya despite UN ban?
  4. Brexit deal to be signed, as sides poised for tough talks
  5. Timmermans urges EU governments to tax carbon
  6. Vietnam sent champagne to MEPs ahead of trade vote
  7. China spy suspect had EU permission to work as lobbyist
  8. EU to unveil 5G 'toolbox' to tackle security threats

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us