Hunters call for open season
Hunters and trappers, frustrated at not being able to pursue their hobby, yesterday appealed to the Prime Minister to open the spring season.
Joe Perici Calascione, PRO of the Federation of Hunters, Trappers and Conservationists (FKNK), said: "The Prime Minister would not be failing anyone if he opens the season, now that the European Court has not taken any decision on spring hunting, because it is obvious that there is no urgency as alleged by the European Commission".
The season has been kept closed pending a decision by the European Court of Justice but the federation is complaining that the matter is taking far too long and two weeks have already passed of what would have been the hunting season. To make matters even more galling for the hunters, migrating birds are said to have been seen in larger numbers than usual.
Addressing a press conference outside Auberge de Castille, the Prime Minister's Office in Valletta, Mr Perici Calascione said the federation had agreed with the government that all sides should respect the court and not appear to be trying to hinder it or apply pressure on it while it decided a European Commission application to ban spring hunting this year pending a final decision.
Such interim measures were only requested in matters of urgency, Mr Perici Calascione said, adding that the spring season was supposed to have opened two weeks ago and the court had not yet taken a decision. He asked why the court was being indifferent to the mental anguish of thousands of Maltese and Gozitans.
Every day that went by was a day taken from the life of hunters, who had been promised, in writing, by the Maltese authorities before the 2003 election that spring hunting would be allowed to continue. An appeal to the President of Malta to intervene on this matter had fallen on deaf ears, Mr Perici Calascione said.
The Prime Minister, he added, needed to objectively analyse the situation. The government had been elected by the people to, first and foremost, safeguard their interests. Hunters felt humiliated by what was happening to them because of foreigners. In the same way as their forefathers had done, the hunters felt that they should resist in order to protect their culture and tradition.
He accused BirdLife Malta of continuing to rub salt into the wound through a misleading publicity campaign.
"More than enough time has passed and we expect that the same respect we showed the European Court will be reciprocated, with the court appreciating that this delicate and urgent situation is affecting many Maltese and Gozitans. A decision should be taken without further delay.
"As a federation we are against illegal hunting. But the situation today is such that an injustice is being committed against hunters and, therefore, the federation is not in a position to condemn anyone at this stage particularly those hunting for quail and turtle dove.
"Is it possible that the judges (of the European Court) do not know that this situation amounts to psychological torture, which is hurting not only hunting enthusiasts but also their families and those around them," Mr Perici Calascione said.
Earlier this week the police made several arrests as BirdLife reported hunters being out in significant numbers.
Mr Perici Calascione reiterated the federation's invitation to the Prime Minister to discuss the situation.
Trapper Joe Abela from Mosta, who was at Castille Place, said the trapping season has been closed since March of last year. "We were promised we were going to be allowed to practise our hobby both by Europe and the Maltese government but we were betrayed," he said.
Another hunter complained they were being treated worse than criminals because every time they went to their fields, they would find the police asking what they were doing. "We are in a situation where we prefer not to go to our fields in order to avoid trouble," he said.
Hunters are also very angry at what they describe as provocation by the anti-hunting lobby. "BirdLife is provoking us by celebrating the continued closure of the spring hunting season," the hunter said.
Other hunters lamented that they were going through moments of uncertainty not knowing what they should do. "We are being deprived of our pastime and we are earnestly waiting for the season to open," one of them said.