Malta’s spring witch hunt starts early

A Dutch animal rights MEP wants Europe to censure Malta over its spring hunt. Anja Hazekamp, MEP for ‘The Dutch Party for The Animals’, accuses the Maltese Government of “a permanent lack of enforcement” for its spring hunting derogation.

The Maltese hit back at the allegation Malta hunting organisation FKNK president Joseph Perici Calascione says: “It’s bizarre how non-Maltese MEPs can initiate a witch hunt on the smallest EU Member State by dictating how Malta should set its laws, especially after a national referendum showed that the majority of people supported spring hunting in Malta.”

Malta is allowed to shoot up to 5,000 turtle doves a year. An estimated 2 million turtle doves are shot each year throughout continental Europe.

This year’s spring hunt, which takes place in April, will see the Maltese hunt quail only. The FKNK has instituted a voluntary ban on turtle dove hunting.

Dr David Scallan of the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) adds: “The Birds Directive, the European Court of Justice rulings and the EU guidance on hunting clearly allow the application of spring hunting when certain strict conditions are met”. On enforcement, he added that during the last hunting season in Malta, Government figures show that officers conducted 32,854 field patrols and 2,351 spot-checks on individual licensed hunters. The 2017 spring hunting season was characterised by the lowest ever number of illegalities disclosed. These figures do not constitute a permanent lack of enforcement in Malta.”

Hazekamp will try to force the European Parliament to take action on the Maltese spring hunting issue during a plenary session of the European Parliament in May 2018 in Strasburg. Green MEPs Keith Taylor (UK) and Klaus Buchner (DE) supported by TV presenter Chris Packham also called for a ban on spring hunting in Malta.

In 2006, the European Commission took Malta to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to abolish spring hunting. In September 2009, as a result of the ECJ’s relative verdict, Malta reaffirmed its EU Membership right to apply a derogation from the Birds Directive to permit spring hunting. In April 2015, the FKNK won the first ever direct national Abrogative Referendum held in Malta, which had been instituted by anti-hunting activists in another attempt to abolish spring hunting. The European Commission closed the relative infringements procedures against Malta that it had pending from the ECJ Case soon following the Referendum result.

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