BirdLife presents shot birds and petition to Prime Minister
Anti-hunting NGO BirdLife yesterday presented the Prime Minister with a petition signed by about 122,000 people from around the world calling for the spring hunting season not to be reopened.
Carrying three live protected birds, which the NGO claimed were shot illegally, a group of BirdLife activists walked halfway up the steps of the Auberge de Castille in Valletta, where the Prime Minister's Office is located, carrying placards saying: Stop Illegal Hunting.
"Our politicians should stop treating Europe's common natural heritage as a commodity of the Maltese hunters. Instead, they should comply with EU laws and listen to the majority of the Maltese population who are strongly against illegal killing of wild birds and hunting in spring," president Joseph Mangion said, as policemen circled the protestors but allowed them to continue.
The government is debating whether or not to open a limited spring hunting season after the Ornis Committee, which makes hunting recommendations to the government, called for the season to be opened.
This comes in light of a complex European Court of Justice ruling, which was interpreted differently by BirdLife and the hunters' federation, FKNK.
The three birds - a common kestrel and two marsh harriers - were found on Monday in Safi, Kalkara and Chadwick Lakes respectively and a vet certified they had been shot, Mr Mangion said.
After the demonstration, BirdLife carried the birds in boxes to the police station in Valletta where a report was filed.
The petition, which BirdLife and its European partners started circulating in January, called on the government to "never allow spring shooting or trapping of turtle dove and quail again".
It also called on Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi not to harm EU nature conservation laws for the "sole purpose of being re-elected".
BirdLife said that, in the past few weeks, it received around seven protected raptors.
"It is very clear that the government cannot even control the ongoing illegal hunting and, yet, they are once again considering opening another spring hunting season," Mr Mangion said.
He added that killing wild birds in spring before they had a chance to breed could have serious consequences on their populations.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the editor published in today's paper (see page 10), two hunting associations call for stricter penalties against those who hunt illegally but insist they would not accept the imposition of "collective punitive measures on all hunters".
"Neither do we accept the false arguments put forward by BirdLife to scare the government into not applying a derogation for limited hunting this spring," they say.
The hunters suggested more surveillance in "notorious black spots", which BirdLife and its partners refer to as poaching strongholds.