Threat of bird flu hasn't halted shooting in Malta
It is deeply regrettable that the government in Malta has chosen not to suspend spring shooting in spite of the threat of avian flu. Consequently, shooting of quail and turtle doves began this week. International Animal Rescue is now finalising plans for an anti-shooting campaign in Malta to raise awareness of the damage this causes to the country’s international reputation.
In the meantime, Malta’s shooting practices have been the subject of discussion in Europe.
At the end of February the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee met to discuss a petition signed by more than 190,000 EU citizens demanding an end to spring hunting in Malta. During the meeting EU officials stated that Malta may have infringed the conditions of its spring shooting derogation. However, they wouldn’t say whether Malta would face an infringement procedure over the issue. A final decision will be made on the matter at the end of March. Malta is the only member state in the EU where hunting of quail and turtle doves is still allowed during the spring. The Maltese government believes that a derogation is possible under article nine of the Birds Directive. However, this derogation is only granted on certain conditions and the Commission is now studying a report submitted by the Maltese government to justify the use of the derogation.
During the debate, British MEP Sir Robert Atkins intervened to state that the Commission and the committee should be careful in dealing with this topic, as it was unfair to pick just on Malta. He pointed out that there are similar problems in France, Italy and other member states. He also referred to a letter sent to all MEPs by Environment and Rural Affairs Minister George Pullicino, affirming that the Maltese minister is right in saying that there is more going on in other EU member states than Malta.
The government’s report contained the figures submitted by hunters in the carnet de chasse - a form they hand in when paying for their hunting licence. This contains details of the birds they have shot in the previous year. The report stated that in 2004, there were 11,759 registered hunters and 4,691 registered trappers. Between them they shot or trapped 2,128 quails and 10,111 turtle doves from May 1 to 22, 2004.