The Malta Independent 14 October 2019, Monday

Spring Hunting Out campaign says it is time to ‘set the facts straight’ on spring hunting

Sunday, 25 January 2015, 09:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

SHout, the Spring Hunting Out campaign, yesterday released a document refuting numerous false claims being made by hunters about the referendum to abolish spring hunting.

Campaign Coordinator Romina Tolu said: "The hunters are trying to mislead the public by spreading misinformation about spring hunting and frightening others by telling people that if they vote NO in order to abolish spring hunting, their hobbies will be next."

Ms Tolu continued: "Today we publish a list of the main false claims being made by FKNK spokesmen Mark Bonello and Joe Perici Calascione, with the truth of the situation to set the record straight. We trust that voters will realise that the scaremongering and false claims being made by hunters is happening because they do not have any real justification for calling on people to vote in favour of keeping spring hunting."

The SHout campaign also announced more ambassadors who will be supporting a NO vote to stop spring hunting. Ms Tolu added: "Joining Moira Delia, Saviour Balzan, Joseph Mangion, Seb Tanti Burlo, Frank Zammit, Renzo Spiteri, Nick Morales, Carina Camilleri and Iggy Fenech are Pierre Portelli, Coryse Borg and Edward Caruana Dingli."

An abrogative referendum is the most democratic tool the country has, with everyone's vote being equal and valid. It is therefore right for people to stand up and make their voices heard on this issue, campaigners said yesterday.

Announcing the latest ambassadors, Romina Tolu said: "The SHout campaign ambassadors are courageous enough to speak out. It is extremely encouraging to have many high-profile Maltese from all walks of life supporting the campaign."

Sliema local councillor Pierre Portelli said: "I am voting No because I honestly believe that we ought to let migrating birds live and not be killed in the spring." Maltese swimming champion Edward Caruana Dingli said: "Hunting in the spring cannot be considered a fair sport; the sheer density of hunters in the Maltese countryside equipped with firearms is extremely destructive." Mr Portelli added: "We need to safeguard the environment not only for ourselves but for future generations." Coryse Borg said: "While many hunters abide by the rules, unfortunately there are those who not only flaunt but also break them. It is not just the turtle dove and quail that end up being targeted in the spring hunting season. They hunt other breeds that are migrating, and are therefore contributing to the decimation of these species."

Ms Tolu urged everyone to use their vote on 11 April, saying: "This referendum is our chance to make a difference and to do the right thing for birds, for people's right to enjoy their countryside, for Malta. So say 'No' to lies and deceit, 'No' to the bullies and vote 'No' to get spring hunting out."


Setting the facts straight on hunters' false claims, and the truth about spring hunting

On access to the countryside, hunters claim that:

  • Most hunters hunt over private land.
  • Most public land is no-hunting areas.
  • Non-hunting areas at Buskett, Ta Qali, Kennedy Grove, Salina, Għadira, Simar, tal-Magħluq, Dwejra and Għammar are enough countryside for people to enjoy.


These claims are false because:

Hunting is permissible on 80 per cent of the Maltese countryside, including many of the best areas for nature and public enjoyment, including all areas of public land, apart from a very small number of nature reserves and bird sanctuaries. 

There are about 10,000 hunters out of a population of about 400,000 people. This means that about 2.5 per cent of the population are allowed to occupy 80 per cent of the countryside, making it a no-go area for most people during the spring hunting season - the best time of the year for picnics, walks and enjoying nature.


On bird protection, hunters claim that:

  • The spring hunt is only two weeks long [it is actually three weeks] and only 11,000 birds are killed.
  • 10 million quail and turtle dove (the two types that Maltese law allows to be shot at the moment in spring) are shot each year in Europe.
  • Hunters will still illegally target protected species, even if spring hunting is banned.


These claims are false because:

No other EU country allows the shooting of these birds in the spring. This is because these are the strong birds that have survived the winter in Africa and are returning to mainland Europe to breed, lay eggs and increase the population of birds. These are the birds that produce many young birds allowing for the shooting of birds in autumn, when it is much less damaging to bird populations.

Hunters already shoot many more birds than they are allowed to. They do not report the birds they shoot to the authorities because as soon as the official limit is reached, the season will be closed. 

While hunters may still go out shooting birds in the spring if it is banned, all these activities will be criminal and this will allow the police to target their resources by catching law-breakers.


Regarding other EU countries, hunters claim that:

  • In the UK alone there are 2,000 derogations from EU rules to allow bird hunting.
  • It is unfair to propose a ban only in Malta.


These claims are false because:

Only Malta uses derogations from the Birds Directive to allow the hunting of migrating of birds in the spring. Spring hunting for fun was phased out of all other EU countries and now Malta should do the same.


On paying for police to control hunters, hunters claim that:

  • Hunting licences pay for the police required to control them.
  • Hunters annually pay around €2,000,000 in permits and licences, paying for the police to control them.


These claims are false because:

About 10,000 do not pay any fee to hunt in the spring, raising no income for the government to use to police the spring hunting season.


On spring hunting being a tradition, hunters claim that:

  • Spring hunting is essential to enable them to enjoy their hobby.


This claim is false because:

Hunters can shoot 41 types of bird in unlimited numbers for five months between 1 September and 31 January each year. They do not need a spring hunting season because they can still shoot birds for nearly half the year.


On other hobbies, hunters claim that:

  • The successful abolition of spring hunting will result in other hobbies being targeted


This claim is false because:

The referendum called by the people to abolish spring hunting uses the Referendum Act, which allows for people to vote to abolish a law. Spring hunting is unusual because there is a law that allows it. Most other hobbies have laws that control them. A referendum regarding other hobbies could only be held to abolish laws and so such a referendum would only make these hobbies less regulated by the law.


On the organisers of the Spring Hunting Out Campaign, hunters claim:

  • It is being run by foreigners


This claim is false because:

Over 41,000 Maltese signed the petition to call for the referendum. Large numbers of Maltese public figures are coming out as ambassadors to support the referendum. A total of 14 organisations organised the petition to call for the referendum and all of these are Maltese organisations, established and managed by Maltese people. 



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