Coalition against spring hunting launch referendum petition
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This weekend the Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting formally launched the process to gather signatures for a petition to call for a referendum to end spring hunting.
The coalition, which was launched in July, is made up of: Ramblers Association of Malta, Nature Trust, Moviment Graffiti, International Animal Rescue Malta, Greenhouse Malta, Gaia Foundation, Friends of the Earth Malta, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Din l-Art Helwa, Coalition for Animal Rights, BirdLife Malta and Alternattiva Demokratika.
The representatives of the 12 organisations in the Coalition signed the petition to become the lead petitioners for the referendum.
Coalition spokesperson Rudolph Ragonesi described the referendum as “a real chance for the people of Malta to end the cat and mouse game between the European Union and Malta that means spring hunting continues against the wishes of the vast majority of the Maltese population.”
He described the situation where Malta applies a derogation of the EU Birds Directive to allow spring hunting as “completely against the purpose of such derogations.”
While quoting the Birds Directive Mr Ragonesi said, “Malta uses a clause in the Birds Directive ‘to permit, under strictly supervised conditions and on a selective basis, the capture, keeping or other judicious use of certain birds in small numbers’ to allow hunting of turtle dove and quail for sport.” He added, “killing for sport is not judicious use.”
Coalition spokesperson Chris Debono highlighted how Malta is able to play a cat and mouse game with the EU by constantly changing the rules under which spring hunting takes place to justify that, “spring hunting takes place the under strictly supervised conditions required by the Birds Directive.”
Mr Debono said, “every year Malta produces a report to demonstrate to the European Commission that the spring hunting season has been strictly supervised and controlled. This usually results in serious questions asked by the European Commission that Malta has to satisfy or risk being taken to the European Court of Justice and risk very heavy fines.”
Mr Ragonesi concluded by saying “every year Malta risks fines that could amount to millions to allow something that is not good for bird conservation or in the best interests of responsible hunters. Maltese voters can stop this by signing the petition to help ensure that the referendum takes place.”
Frequently Asked Questions
(1) What spring hunting takes place on Malta?
The hunting of birds in springtime is undertaken by registered hunters using shotguns. The licence allows hunters to shoot quail and turtle dove for two weeks in April. In 2013 over 9,487 hunters were given licences to shoot a maximum of 11,000 Turtle Doves and 5,000 Quail between them. Some hunters also target other birds, especially rare and protected species such as Marsh Harrier, Cuckoo and Nightjar.
(2) Why is spring hunting a problem for birds?
The birds flying over Malta are heading towards northern Europe to breed. Killing birds in springtime means that they will not be able to breed and so this affects their overall population. The numbers of both Common Quail and European Turtle Dove are declining and so they have been registered as species of conservation concern. This means that hunting them for sport could be very damaging to the ability of these species to survive.
Some hunters also shoot other birds during spring. Rare and protected species are especially vulnerable and injured shot birds of very rare species such as the Pallid Harrier were found in 2013.
(3) Are there other problems associated with spring hunting?
Malta is a small densely populated country with possibly the highest density of hunters in the world. Hunters illegally occupy large areas of the countryside, preventing other people from enjoying it. For example, some school visits to the countryside have had to be abandoned in springtime because of the potential dangers of taking children out where shotguns are being fired. Ramblers, cyclists and tourists are regularly threatened or intimidated by hunters when they are enjoying the countryside too. Many tourists complain about the hunting they witness and there is little doubt that spring hunting affects tourism on the Maltese islands, something that makes up 40% of the Maltese economy.
(4) Who is in the Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting?
11 organisations have agreed to work together to bring about an end to spring hunting on Malta. The organisations are: Alternattiva Demokratika, Birdlife Malta, Coalition for Animal Rights, Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation, Moviment Graffiti, Greenhouse Malta, Nature Trust and the Ramblers Association of Malta.
(5) What is the Coalition seeking to achieve?
The Coalition is seeking to achieve an end to spring hunting on the Maltese islands. It is doing this by applying pressure on the Maltese government to remove the legislation that allows spring hunting to take place. The Coalition is also working across the European Union to bring pressure on the European Commission to enforce the Birds’ Directive properly and ban spring hunting on the Malta.
(6) Why is the Coalition calling for a referendum?
Successive governments have failed to deal with the problem of spring hunting. Instead, they have given privileges to hunters in return for their votes at election time. Hunters are a small minority of the Maltese people and opinion polls show that 60% of voters want spring hunting abolished.
In view of the consistent lack of action by government and the reluctance of the European Union to take action, the Coalition believes it is time for the people to have their say on spring hunting through a referendum.
(7) How will the Coalition go about securing a referendum?
10% of people who can vote at a general election must call for a referendum. The Coalition is organising a petition to gather the signatures of 35,000 Maltese voters to call for a referendum.
(8) When will the referendum take place?
Organising a referendum is a complicated matter and the date of the referendum is at the discretion of the government. The Coalition will submit the petition when it has gathered enough signatures to enable it to happen.
(9) How can people support the referendum?
Anyone can help collect signatures for the petition. To receive a copy of the petition and instructions in how to collect signatures, please send an email to: email@example.com
(10) What is the role of the European Union in controlling spring hunting?
The European Union’s Birds Directive forbids spring hunting. Malta was fined following a hearing at the European Court of Justice for allowing spring hunting between 2004 and 2007. The Malta government now allows spring hunting through a derogation of the Birds Directive. While the EU sets very strict conditions spring hunting to take place
(11) What is the Coalition going to do to influence the EU?
The Coalition is lobbying the European Commission to enforce the Birds Directive and so abolish spring hunting on Malta. This includes providing evidence that the derogation that allows spring hunting on Malta is not legally sound as well as showing that the strict conditions that are meant to be applied to hunting in springtime are not properly enforced.
(12) Why is the Coalition not calling for a complete ban on hunting?
Science shows that spring hunting is very damaging to wild bird populations and the protection of birds for their own sake and the enjoyment of as many people as possible is the core objective of the Coalition. Furthermore, spring hunting is expressly forbidden under EU law and the Coalition considers that the law should be properly applied on Malta.