Update 2 | PM orders closure of hunting season • Hunters withdraw from Ornis • PN, AD slam past decisions

Nationalist Party says government sent out ‘clear message’ it would tolerate illegalities following several ALE transfers and repeal of 3pm curfew • FKNK withdraws from Ornis Committee

Lino Farrugia
Lino Farrugia

Adds reaction by AD, KSU, FKNK

Hunters' lobby FKNK has suspended its participation in the Ornis Committee, the body recommending the dates for the opening of hunting seasons, in protest at what it said was the government's "discriminatory action" to close down the hunting season.

FKNK chief executive Lino Farrugia said the lobby would consider legal action and other measures of protest.

"We disagree with this decision. It's a grave mistake and a line of action that weakens the government’s position, in that it has given in to criminals rather than continue to strengthen legal hunting and the FKNK which have progressed immensely over the last decade," Farrugia said.

Farrugia said the FKNK had collaborated with the authorities to curtail illegal hunting and poaching. "The person who was caught shooting a White Stork earlier this month, tried and found guilty and sentenced, was not an FKNK member and did not even have a hunting licence – so why link the incident with legal and sustainable hunting? Wrongdoers are found in all sectors of society.  Therefore, it is wrong that government has decided to punish the innocent rather than just the individual wrongdoer. This is a clear discriminatory action against legal hunters and can never be accepted."

PN reaction

Government’s decision to close the autumn hunting season could have been avoided from the start if the government did not make a series of wrong decisions, the Nationalist Party said today.

The PN welcomed the decision to immediately close the hunting season until birds of prey and other protected birds migrate towards the south. The decision follows the killing of protected birds by individuals who the government called “criminals”.

“Illegal hunting is illegal and no government should tolerate it,” the PN said.

This is in fact the first time that a government took the draconian decision to stop hunting in the middle of a hunting season.

The PN said the Nationalist administration had banned autumn hunting following the massacre of barn owls in 2007.

The party insisted that this week’s massacre was a result of the “clear message” sent by the government in that illegalities would be “tolerated”.

“The numerous transfers that took place within the ALE and the decision to repeal a 3pm curfew gave hunters the idea that they could do whatever they liked without any restrictions,” the PN said. “Today’s decision would have been avoided if the government had been more prudent.”

AD welcomes step, but decries delay

Alternattiva Demokratika has welcomed the temporary closure of the hunting season saying that the bird massacre that took place was a “logical consequence” of the Labour Party’s message.

“The message sent out by Joseph Muscat and his party was simple: Labour protects hunting. As a result of this message, some hunters thought it was their right to do whatever they want,” AD’s deputy chairman Carmel Cacopardo said adding that not all hunters were of this belief.

But the consequences, he added, are well known.

He said the government’s step to suspend the hunting season was a good step, but one which came late.

“But it is too late and I have no doubt that reports of illegalities will not stop. The government had to do something because of the public opinion reacting to the abuses around us. This is a good step…perhaps it will one day come to its senses.”

Hunters: ‘draconian measure reflects badly on government’

In a statement, hunters association Kaccaturi San Ubertu (KSU) said it considered collective punishment as a counterproductive measure that reflects badly on Government’s immense efforts to regulate hunting.

By Government’s own admission “the small minority undermining hunting to the detriment of others” was the cause to castigate “the majority that are responsible in their actions”.  

“KSU, as part of its ongoing cooperation with Government, offered solutions to the problem that where more equitable and that facilitated the reporting of any illegal activity and trust that before this suspension is lifted these measures will be incorporated in our laws,” the hunters said.

KSU said it unreservedly condemned illegal activity but on behalf of all our members and thousands of other law abiding hunters “we consider the measures taken as draconian in this day and age where dialogue and proper consultation do lead to the best solution to any such problem”.

KSU added, in view of the anticipated appointment of Karmenu Vella as Environment Commissioner, it looked forward to see Malta setting the example of how the plague of wildlife crime throughout all the EU member states is to be tackled in a more appropriate manner.

CABS praises PM´s decision to close hunting season
The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) today welcomed the decision of the Maltese government to close the hunting season due to the large number of protected birds killed in the last days. “We raise our hats to the Prime minister for having the nerves to make this momentous decision. I am sure it was a tough call but the situation was really out of control in parts of the island.”, CABS president Heinz Schwarze said. “After months of empty rethoric coming from his Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Rights Dr Muscat has shown that he really means business”.
CABS said it hopes that this “milestone decision” will also lead to a change of thinking within the hunting organisations forcing them to strengthen their efforts to remove bad seeds out of their own ranks.

The NGO announced that its team will monitor the countryside with powerful spotting scopes to ensure that the ban is respected and to report all violations to the police.