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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

IAR welcomes ban on spring hunting in Malta

Caged quailsInternational Animal Rescue has warmly welcomed the decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to ban spring hunting in Malta. This is an interim measure, preventing the government from opening the 2008 hunting and trapping season for turtle dove and quail.

The measure will remain in place until the ECJ gives a final verdict on whether to issue a total ban on spring hunting in Malta.

This means that hunters will not be able to go out this season - a decision which is expected to incense the already fuming hunting community in Malta.

Max Farrugia, chairman of International Animal Rescue in Malta, said: "We are overjoyed at this news which will spare the lives of so many birds when they are breeding and rearing young. Everyone who loves nature and wildlife is praying that this will be a permanent end to spring hunting, and not just a temporary measure."

The European Court of Justice had been considering the matter for three weeks after it heard submissions by the Government of Malta and the European Commission.

In January 2008 the European Commission took the Maltese government to Court for having allowed hunting of turtle dove and common quail every spring since the country’s accession to the EU in 2004. This is in direct contravention of the EU Birds Directive. Hunting during the sensitive breeding and spring migration period is prohibited under EU law in all member states.

Editor’s Notes:

The Maltese government had argued that spring hunting should be allowed in terms of a derogation negotiated as part of the EU accession package. Malta’s team of lawyers included a Belgian lawyer specialising in the environment and in the Birds Directive.

Hearings before the court for a final decision on the future of spring hunting have not started yet.

The Commission is asking the court to declare that, by failing to meet the conditions set out in Article 9 of Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds, the Republic of Malta has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 7 of the Directive for the hunting of quail and turtle dove during spring migration.

Since accession to the EU on May 1, 2004, the Maltese authorities have exercised the right to apply the derogation in Article 9(1) of the directive for the hunting of quail and turtle dove during the spring migration period when they return to their nesting ground. The question raised in the proceedings is whether the Maltese authorities fall within the scope of the derogation in Article 9(1) which would permit the hunting of the species in question in spring on the basis that there is no other satisfactory solution.