Pigeon culling ‘could require EU law derogation’

Animal lovers plan to film and disrupt planned pigeon culling in Birgu tomorrow evening 

The Birgu local council is being pressured to cancel its planned pigeon cull
The Birgu local council is being pressured to cancel its planned pigeon cull

The traditional Maltese pigeon cull could be falling foul of EU law, meaning that the government could be obliged to seek a derogation to maintain the practice, BirdlIfe Malta’s chief executive has warned.

A pigeon cull is being planned for Birgu on Thursday evening, with the local council insisting it is necessary to control the bird populations and hence tackle the problem of pigeon excrement. It is the latest in a recent string of pigeon culls organised by local councils – following in the footsteps of those in Balzan, Sliema, St Julian’s, and Bormla.

However, BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana told MaltaToday that it is likely that the EU’s Birds Directive, which has been transposed into Maltese law, requires governments to seek a derogation before allowing such culls to take place.

“Malta should apply for an EU derogation to allow for the culling of pigeons, which could be a justified practice so long as it is carried out correctly and ethically,” he said.

Sultana said that the current method of culling – essentially involving people using rifles to gun down pigeons in the streets – is not an effective way to control pigeon populations.

“In other countries, pigeons are first trapped and then killed afterwards. The reality is that people who go out shooting pigeons in the street are doing so because they enjoy it.”

Moreover, he warned that the culling is taking place during breeding season, which could disrupt the breeding of migratory birds such as the swift.

MaltaToday contacted the head of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit Sergei Golovkin, but he said that he wasn’t permitted to speak to the press over the telephone.

Animal lovers plan to disrupt pigeon cull

News that the Birgu local council was planning a pigeon cull sparked outrage amongst animal lovers, and the Animal Protectors Malta group is organising a protest to coincide with the cull.

The group’s founder Mikel St John is encouraging protestors to bring whistles to scare the pigeons off with noise and to film the culling and pass on the footage to foreign media.

“We must show the world how Maltese deal with living beings…I need you true animal lovers to be there…no bullshit…stop complaining…let’s do something!”

Animal Welfare Commission Emanuel Buhagiar has said that Malta should follow Melbourne in controlling pigeon populations by building hen-house traps in which pigeons lay their eggs which will are ten destroyed before they hatch.

Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi has also called for pigeon culling – which she decried as a “macabre and sad spectacle which will seriously damage Malta’s reputation” – to be replaced with a nationwide initiative to control the pigeon population in a strategic, humane and long-lasting manner.

“There is ample research and literature on long-term control on pigeons with proven success,” she said on Facebook. “Adopting a ‘wild west’ strategy which is cruel, macabre, dangerous and ineffective is not the solution.”