23rd May 2019

Maltese hunters see red over EU bird ban proposal

  • The hunting lobby in Malta is very strong (Photo: EUobserver)

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.

"The current derogation should not be renewed," MEPs said, after visiting the Maltese islands for two days in May on surprise inspections and seeing evidence of mass bird carnage, including of endangered species.

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Malta obtained a holiday or "derogation" from EU law against spring-time hunting during its EU accession talks, getting a break until 2008 on seven species of finch. The derogation is based on the EU's 1979 "bird directive."

"There is too much circumstantial evidence of its abuse. Further derogations would lift the lid on spring hunting in other Mediterranean islands...and the price would be the likely extinction of many migratory bird species," the report added.

The European Parliament will debate the move in plenary later this year, but with about 18,000 licensed hunters in Malta, the hunting lobby makes up 5 percent of the small Mediterranean state's population and carries much clout.

The Council of the Federation for Hunting and Conservation in Malta - the FKNK - did not mice its words, saying "The committee's report seems to be full of misconceptions and insults and is totally discriminatory."

"What is necessary is a 'field hands-on fact-finding mission' and a considerable period of time, where true field experts can spend a lot of time with local hunters and trappers," the FKNK's chief Lino Farrugia added.

"Then, and only then, can a factual report be submitted anywhere, and, to anyone."

Meanwhile, Maltese wildlife charities welcomed the EU-level support, with BirdLife Malta president Joseph Mangion stating "this is in the interest of the Maltese public...[Malta] has knowingly and persistently infringed community legislation."

BirdLife Malta says Maltese hunters kill 1.5 million birds a year and that most Maltese people want to see the practice curbed, but the FKNK says the BirdLife figures are lies, using militant language in the Maltese press.

"BirdLife and co will feel the full weight of the wrath of FKNK and Maltese hunters and trappers," Mr Farrugia told The Times of Malta on Monday (10 July), adding that the anti-hunt group would have to step "over a lot of dead bodies" to succeed.

Last month the European Commission started a legal infringement procedure against the Maltese government over the spring hunting of two species of quails and turtle doves, which are not covered by the derogation.

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