Maltese hunters accuse Brussels of anti-hunting bias over court action on trapping

Maltese hunting lobby claim European Commission has “anti-hunting bias” after Brussels did not buy Maltese bid to circumvent trapping ban by creating a scientific research programme for trappers 

Malta’s hunting lobby has accused Brussels of harbouring “an anti-hunting bias” after it hauled the Maltese government to court over breaches of the Birds Directive, the EU rules intended to protect the migration of birds in spring.

The court action was taken after the Maltese government devised a derogation from the EU’s ban on bird trapping, under the guise of a “scientific research programme”.

Malta’s chief hunting lobby the Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK) accused the European Commission of “prejudice” for taking legal steps “against a scientific research programme”.

“The FKNK will again offer its complete resources backing, including its technical and legal expertise to the Maltese government, also on behalf of its thousands of trapper members.

“This Commission action against Maltese trappers, hunters, families and friends should moreover stimulate all Maltese and Gozitans to sign the FACE European Petition that will request the EU Commission to stop working against hunting in Europe, but instead to work with European hunters and trappers.”

A 2018 ECJ verdict had stopped finch trapping in Malta, but government had tried to skirt the judgment by applying a research derogation in 2020.

In 2021, the Commission also decided to refer Malta to the Court of Justice, for failing to apply the Birds Directive “by incorrectly applying a derogation regime and authorising the trapping of protected finches for research purposes.”

At the time, the Commission considered that, even though the declared objective is ‘research’, several elements indicate that the scheme, in practice, allows for a large number of birds to be captured without being reported, contrary to the strict conditions for derogations set by the Birds Directive.

“Although Malta repealed the incriminated legislation in early October, it did not allay the Commission’s concerns: the trapping licences for the 2021 season had already been issued on the basis of the repealed 2020 framework, and new rules have been swiftly adopted with only minor changes compared to the previous legal regime,” the Commission had said.

Court action in 2021 was preceded by the Commission’s reasoned opinion that deemed Malta’s trapping derogation as “unsatisfactory”.