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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Malta hunters' federation under investigation

The hunters' federation in Malta is being investigated for a possible breach of data protection laws after it named 13 members who ignored its directive and went hunting during last month's brief season. In all 23 hunters applied for this licence.

Data Protection Commissioner Joseph Ebejer said the Federation of Hunters and Conservationists (FKNK) could have violated the Data Protection Act when it published the names of the members and where they lived. Some of the people on the list were easily identifiable by their unusual names.

The federation had warned members not to apply for the special licence to hunt during the six-day season after it rejected the special arrangement as "obscene". Besides condemning the length of the season (six days rather than three weeks), the federation was particularly angered at the fact that only 2,500 applications would be accepted and on this basis called a boycott threatening to name and shame those who failed to follow it.

But the Data Protection Commission has stressed that personal data can only be published within the criteria set out in law, which stipulates that, except under certain circumstances, personal information can only be processed if the people it relates to have given their explicit consent. There are exceptions, such as publishing personal data because it is in the public interest, and that is partly what the Commissioner will now have to establish.

The naming of the hunters who wanted to abide by the law was described by Max Farrugia Chairman of International Animal Rescue in Malta, as "foolish and dangerous to those who registered for a licence". Their naming may well have exposed the hunters to the risk of revenge attacks by other individuals, particularly in the present climate which was described as "very hot" by the federation itself a few weeks ago.

Only 23 hunters paid the €25 fee for the special licence to hunt between 24 and 30 April. Of these, only 13 were FKNK members.

The government had defended the short season on the basis that it was still trying to reach an understanding over the possibility of a longer stretch with the European Commission, to avoid facing the European Courts for breach of EU conservation laws for a second time. However, the Commission has so far poured cold water on the idea of any season longer than that allowed this year.