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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

IAR welcomes EU action against bird shooting in Malta

Turtle doveIAR has welcomed the decision by the European Commission to take Malta to the European Court of Justice over the spring hunting and trapping of wild birds, which is illegal under EU law. Every spring since its accession to the EU in 2004, Malta has permitted hunting and trapping of turtle dove and common quail in contravention of the EU Birds Directive. IAR Malta Chairman Max Farrugia said: "It is sad that it has had to come to this, but we can only welcome the Commission’s decision to take Malta to Court if it will result in protection for birds during their breeding season.

"The Maltese government should now do the decent thing and cancel the spring shooting season, due to begin on 1 April.

The Commission started legal action against Malta in 2006 and issued a final warning last October, urging the Maltese government to stop spring hunting once and for all. In the absence of a satisfactory response from Malta the Commission eventually decided to take the country to the European Court.

Throughout the European Union the Birds Directive protects birds by banning hunting during their spring migration back from Africa to their breeding grounds. Member States can apply derogations under certain conditions, of which the most important one is the absence of an alternative solution. In Malta’s case the Commission concluded that such an alternative is provided by the possibility to hunt the species in autumn.

The Maltese Islands are located on an important bird migration route in the Mediterranean. A recent study analysing the ring recoveries in Malta showed that birds originating from a minimum of thirty-six European countries fly over Malta each year.

"I have spent years in Malta tending to injured birds shot down during the spring by fanatical hunters," said Farrugia. "At International Animal Rescue we are opposed to the recreational shooting of birds at any time of the year, but at least a ban on spring shooting would be a step in the right direction."