The Federation for Hunting & Conservation – Malta (FKNK) has written to the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik, protesting over his objections to live bird capturing.

"This method of live-bird capturing has been passionately practised on the Maltese islands by the local trappers since time immemorial. It is an indigenous custom dating back over 500 years, as proven by historical documents. Beyond the mere live-capture of a bird, it embodies the very essence of inherent socio-cultural and anthropological elements handed down from father to son, from generation to generation. A biased administration does not have the right to inflict on its many Maltese aficionados the injustice of abolishing this wonderful tradition," the federation wrote.

It asked why the European Commission had objected only now to the application of a derogation for the live-capturing of birds of the same species that can be legally shot, which derogation, apparently, Malta has always applied and justified in identical fashion for almost seven years.

The FKNK further explained that Government's unfair procrastination or unwillingness to open the season on the eleventh hour was having serious consequences on the very lives of its trapper members.

"These trappers have spent thousands of euro in preparation, equipment and so on; they have worked hard since last February when they had paid their trapping licences for this year. They have been waiting for one year for the season to start. Their legal expectations have been shattered. Their passions and dreams have been ruined by this uncertainty."

The Federation cited European Court Case C-182/02, Ligue pour la protection des oiseaux and others, where the Court held that: "It is clear from the foregoing that the hunting of wild birds for recreational purposes during the periods mentioned in Article 7(4) of the Directive may constitute a judicious use authorised by Article 9(1)(c) of that directive, as do the capture and sale of wild birds even outside the hunting season with a view to keeping them for use as live decoys or to using them for recreational purposes in fairs and markets'.

Finally, the FKNK said that it was still completely incomprehensible how the Government of Malta has failed to address such an important deadline imposed by the Commission on a matter involving the lives of so many of its citizens.

"These people who hunt and trap are also EU citizens, and they are the interested stakeholders and protagonists of this saga. The FKNK just cannot stand by and let them suffer the consequences brought about by such Governmental omissions that are completely alien to the scientific and legal considerations that should be the main focal points of any derogation."

The letter was copied to Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, and to the Malta Ornis Committee Chairman, Louis Cilia.

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