Hunters ‘filing false reports to muzzle birdwatchers’

Hunters' intimidation tactics similar to criminal organisations and autocratic regimes, Committee Against Bird Slaughter claims 

CABS has accused the hunters' federation of targetting its activist Fiona Burrows (pictured)
CABS has accused the hunters' federation of targetting its activist Fiona Burrows (pictured)

The hunters’ federation FKNK is systematically wasting police and court resources by filing false reports to “defame and muzzle” birdwatchers who have exposed hunting crimes, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter has said.

“Instead of taking a clear stand against the lawbreakers, the FKNK is actively supporting them in their efforts to victimize CABS members and other witnesses who have reported cases of illegal hunting and trapping to the police,” CABS press officer Axel Hirschfeld said, drawing parallels with tactics used by criminal organisations and autocratic regimes to intimidate uncomfortable critics.

CABS is a German-based environmental NGO that combats illegal killing and trapping of birds across Europe.

In a hard-hitting statement, it recounted how FKNK officials had recently questioned whether CABS wildlife officer Fiona Burrows “is really trying to protect the birds, or if she was attempting to justify trespassing and deliberate damage on private property”.

The FKNK published that statement last week after a CABS survey revealed that illegal night trapping of golden plovers is widespread and that it had reported illegal sites to the police. CABS confirmed that Burrows is a known ornithologist and that she was asked by officers of the Naxxar police to help assist them after a trapping site was found illegally active last Sunday at around 1:30am.

“As the Administrative Law Enforcement was not on duty at this time, the local police needed an expert to help them with bird identification and to document other document,” Hirschfeld said.

CABS accused the FKNK of systematically flooding the police with complaints about Burrows since she started working for the NGO in 2014. She was notably one of four activists who in 2012 was prosecuted in court because the FKNK insisted that they were breaking the law by publishing a picture of themselves with illegally-shot birds – a case the court threw out three years later.

Last month, the FKNK falsely accused and reported Burrows for the alleged illegal interception of trappers’ mobile phones with a mysterious antenna which the federation said she had installed. The alleged “spy equipment” later turned out to be a seismic monitoring apparatus installed by the University of Malta.

"This kind of defamation of character is libelous and will not be tolerated", Hirschfeld said. "We will not be intimidated by these repeated attempts to discredit and victimise our employees and will continue to work side by side with the police as usual.

“While the FKNK time and again has failed to provide evidence to their their accusations, the investigations and reports of CABS and Birdlife Malta have led to the successful conviction of more than 100 poachers – the majority of them being members of the FKNK - in the last years.”

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