BirdLife volunteers attacked by Maltese hunters

A hunter waits for birds to appear on Malta. Photo: Amanda Rogers (BirdLife International).
A hunter waits for birds to appear on Malta. Photo: Amanda Rogers (BirdLife International).
A hunting ban imposed by the Maltese Government after White Storks were shot has enraged the island's hunting lobby leading to violence against BirdLife volunteers.

The ban was announced by Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Saturday, overruling the committee which usually sets the dates for opening and closing the hunting season. Despite the unpopular shooting of White Storks, pro-hunting politicians said that they could no longer guarantee that hunters would obey the law.

BirdLife Europe has said it strongly condemns unacceptable acts of violence over the weekend in Malta, that saw BirdLife Malta volunteers physically attacked by a mob that split out of a demonstration contesting the decision of Maltese authorities to suspend the hunting season. The decision, taken after a series of poaching incidents, has provoked an angry backlash from extremist elements within the Maltese hunting community, which has mostly distanced itself from both poaching and the mob violence.

Black-winged Stilt is among the many migrating bird species shot on Malta. Photo: Rupert Masefield (BirdLife International).

BirdLife has called on Maltese authorities to step up their efforts to restore the rule of law and to provide adequate protection to volunteers studying bird migration and monitoring illegal activities.

The recent dramatic events in Malta accentuate BirdLife’s questions over the decision by the newly nominated President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to assign the environment portfolio to a Maltese Commissioner, and mandate him to “overhaul” the Birds Directive. Commissioner designate Vella will have to convince MEPs that he won’t be using his new position to weaken EU nature protection in order to make life easier for his government.

Ariel Brunner, Head of EU Policy at BirdLife, commented: “We raised the issue from the very moment of Vella’s designation by Juncker. It’s not a thing against Malta or the Maltese: the point is that Juncker is wrong about the need to overhaul the laws that protect nature in Europe. On top of that, he has given the mandate to do so to a politician that comes from a government and a country that has serious problems in dealing with poachers and violations of nature laws.”
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