IAR speaks out in support of activists campaigning against illegal birdhunting in Malta
International Animal Rescue has spoken out in support of activists campaigning against illegal birdhunting in Malta who have been charged with illicit possession of birds. They have been summoned to court in October for posing in a photo with protected species to highlight illegal hunting.
Birdlife conservation manager Nicholas Barbara, who is among those charged, has questioned whether the action is a drive to stop the NGO from exposing the atrocities of illegal hunting in Malta.
Mr Barbara said:“These charges come as a surprise to us since the matter has already been investigated by the police and it appeared no wrong-doing was found. It is worrying that undue pressure is being put on the police to take the matter even further than it has already gone.”
The arraignment will take place after Magistrate Aaron Bugeja upheld a request by the hunters’ federation (FKNK) to take criminal action against six Birdlife activists. The activists featured in a photograph distributed to the media in October 2012 where they were holding protected birds illegally shot by Maltese hunters.
It is true that the law bars anybody from “keeping any bird, whether alive or dead” but such action has never been taken before. FKNK argued that if the law applied to them it should also apply to bird protection activists.
Following the news International Animal Rescue Malta received a number of phones calls asking what people should do if they found an injured bird in the Maltese countryside, particularly now that the season is open. The advice is to take photos of the bird and then report the case to the police directly so that arrangements can be made to pick it up. The law does not say anything about taking photographs of injured birds and publishing them.
On hearing the news, Alan Knight OBE, Chief Executive of International Animal Rescue, condemned the police action, describing it as “an atrocious abuse of police power.” “We will do anything we can to support the activists who are having to defend themselves against these absurd charges,” he said.