[WATCH] Labour on hunting: we won’t diverge from European framework of laws

BirdLife would hope Muscat enforces ban on spring hunting, but Labour will keep derogating from EU law.

A new Labour government will continue derogating from the EU's ban on spring hunting, Labour leader Joseph Muscat told conservationists BirdLife, during a tour of the group's nature reserve at Ghadira, in Mellieha.

By BirdLife director Steve Micklewright's own admission, it was not the happiest statement he wanted to hear being made, but he appreciated Muscat's honesty after the group first accused Labour of growing closer to the hunting lobby.

"There is no question of giving hunters any concessions," Muscat said of this accusation. "The issue is about following EU regulations within that very framework. Had we been 'hunting' for votes we would have sent hunters and trappers pre-electoral letters promising things we cannot deliver, much as the Nationalist Party has done in previous outings," Muscat said.

"EU regulations will be followed and we will operate within that framework," the Labour leader said. "Many are those who criticise, and that's fair enough. But we are not promising anything we cannot deliver."

Micklewright said he was pleased that Muscat had accepted the invitation to visit the reserve: "It shows that Labour are willing to engage with conservation organisations and recognise the value of BirdLife Malta's work for bird and nature conservation."

But the visit was also an opportunity for BirdLife to put some hard questions to Muscat, particularly about Labour's stance on issues of wildlife protection, law enforcement and safe access to the countryside, which have been the focus of the 'Your Voice Counts' campaign.

While claiming that no illegal hunting would be tolerated by a Labour government, Muscat admitted that Labour would revoke the €50 fee for the 'special spring hunting licence', but didn't say where funds to pay for the increased enforcement required to tackle illegal hunting would come from.

Micklewright also talked about the health and recreational benefits to people of having access to natural spaces and countryside, pointing out that, Maltese people suffered from the third highest rate of obesity in Europe.

Asked if, in light of this, he agreed that hunting should be banned in public Nature Parks, such as Majjistral, to make them safe for the public to use, Muscat remained non-committal, saying that there had to be "compromise".

He was, however, "intrigued" by a proposal put forward by Micklewright for the creation of a Nature Reserve in the south of Malta, like the two- Għadira and Is-Simar, in Xemxija- managed by BirdLife in the north of the island.

Muscat yesterday also declared that he would not hold a referendum on spring hunting, an answer he gave in The Times's Big Debate's 'yes or no' quick-fire questions.

Birdlife Malta has in the past expressed concern that Labour had failed to answer questions on how to deal with uncontrolled illegal hunting and trapping still taking place in Malta.

The group accused Muscat of "adopting the vocabulary of the hunting lobby" by promising privileges to hunters that their European counterparts do not have. Hunters in Malta can legally shoot 41 bird species during the five-month autumn hunting season, compared with just 18 wild bird species that can be hunted recreationally during the autumn season in the UK.

Since joining the EU, Malta has consistently opened a spring hunting season for Turtle Dove and Common Quail - something that is allowed under the EU Birds' Directive if the derogation specifies the law's conditions.

But BirdLife claims the derogation does not satisfy European management plans for both these species, which are declining in Europe and are of "unfavourable conservation status."

Muscat has also previously declared he does not agree with "gold plating" wildlife protection legislation in Malta "beyond what is required by the EU".

BirdLife wants Malta to take account of the local situation by going beyond the Bird Directive, and claims that removing the 3pm curfew on hunting for two weeks in autumn, might be on Labour's agenda.

Muscat has stated that there will be no renegotiation of EU Accession Treaty agreements.

Bravo Muscat spoken lake a true statesman!!!
When is Mr Micklewright going to get it into his head that Labour was in opposition for the past 16 years? Why is he afraid to ask the pertinent questions to Gonzi? Strange that he always blames Labour for what has happened since 1987 and does not bother to pose a single question to the Prime Minister who is responsible for the current situation. I believe that if Mr Micklewright wants to be credible he has first to research his area rather than depend on those at Birdlife who always had a political agenda first and foremost.
Dibattitu bis-sens li juri kemm id-dibattiti l-ohra fuq ix-xandir huma motivati u kkontrollati minn dak il- mikrofnu zghir f’widnejn il-prezentaturi…veru li-‘Shame on you’ toqod perfettamanet ghal-Xandir Malta. U xi nghidu ghall-Kafe’ ta’ Xarabank ,il-Buttuni ta’ Bondi+ u l-laptu tal-Ministru….jista’ l-PBS jispjega ghaliex l-prezentatur ta’ Xarabank ikun prezenti fil-programmi ta’ TVHEMM iservi il-kafe’… vera kaz ta’ mind boggling…u xi nghidu ghal ta’ Bondi+ li qala tkaxkira u ha ftit mil-mistura tieghu meta pprova jirredikola lill Manuel Mallia jgholli idejh….bil-buttuni tal-komma tal-glekk irrigat imissu max-xifer tal-komma wara li gew imqassra. U kellu jghamel Bondi+ WAHDU (jekk tkun nazzjonalist u tara dal-Bondi+ wahdu tivvota PL zgurr)l-bierah biex jipprova jtaffi d-dbengil li qala minn ghand Manwel Mallia…. U meta nigu ghar-rigali u kummissjonijiet mhux kullhadd jaf li dawn issibom anke fil-bejh tal-laptijiet!!..u mhabba f'hekk il-PN ser jitlef l-elezzjoni.
At least Joseph Muscat is honest. He is not the type to send you a personalised letter days before the election assuring you of his support of your cause, and then dumps you after winning the election. That is the style of GonziPN only.
If the hunters (sic) want hunting all year round, they can hunt the poachers, right?
With reference to the part “EU's ban on spring hunting”... That is why there are derogations. Malta applied 3, one for spring hunting, one for trapping and one for ringing. These are all against the Birds Directive. A derogation is an EU State right. UK alone have 2247 derogations which infringe the Birds Directive. Spain applies a derogation to hunt Turtle Dove as a pest species. If you enforce the EU law, which is basically the Birds Directive, hardly any country can catch or hunt birds, that is why there are special derogations.