The Malta Independent 26 June 2022, Sunday

Updated 5: PM closes hunting season after shot bird lands in schoolyard, SHout happy, FKNK dismayed

Monday, 27 April 2015, 13:57 Last update: about 8 years ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has announced that he will close the hunting season following today’s illegal hunting incident.

In a tweet the PM said: “Despite sharp decline in illegalities, today's hunting incident is inexcusable. I have decided to immediately close down the season."

Dr Muscat had issued a stern warning to hunters on the day the referendum result was announced and warned that this was the hunters' last chance and that 'flagrant abuse' would not be tolerated. A number of illegalities have taken place since then, with many asking how many incidents consisted in flagrant abuse. Two people were taken to court for shooting protected birds - a cuckoo and a lapwing - a couple of days into the spring hunting season. Birdlife activitst have also reported finding two more dead cuckoos at Mizieb while a hunter was seen shooting at a kestrel and another was filmed hunting during the curfew. Yesterday, a hunter was taken to court after lead pellets fired from his shotgun injured a Dutch boy. 

This afternoon students at St Edward’s College were traumatised after a Kestrel, which was shot, crashed bleeding into the school yard during break time.

A teacher on supervision at the time said that the boys, aged between seven and 10, were traumatised by what they saw. The incident happened at around 12.30pm, and it is believed the bird was shot from outside the school ground. Five shots were heard in total.

The police have taken the bird away, while officials of the Animal Welfare Department said that the Kestrel may survive.The Kestrel is a protected bird.

The Federation for Hunting and Conservation - Malta (FKNK) said in a statement that the "criminal" who shot the bird must be brought to justice.

The FKNK, while strongly condemning this criminal act, is at present carrying out its investigations and appeals to anyone within its members, but also to the public in general, who may have any information that may lead to the identification of the offender to immediately contact either the police on 119 or the FKNK on 99474503.

Kaccaturi San Ubertu (KSU) also condemned this incident without reservations and question why hunting should be permitted outside the perimeter of a school. It is inconceivable considering the exemplary behaviour of the absolute majority of hunters during this season that few still persist with such criminal behaviour.

KSU calls on members of the public or hunters within the area to pass on any relevant information to the police. People of this sort should be shown no mercy by our law courts. We solicit the maximum penalty contemplated by law should the perpetrator be identified, the association said.

Abuse will not be tolerated - government  

In a statement the government said Dr Muscat had made it clear that clear abuses would not be tolerated. Illegalities decreased drastically during this hunting season thanks to strong enforcement and collaboration between all involved parties. However, today’s incident was unjustifiable and no information that could lead to a conviction was received. For this reason the government has closed the spring hunting season with immediate effect. This sent out a strong message that the time for such abuses was now over, the government said.

Fewer illegalities because fewer birds migrated- Moira Delia

Moira Delia, spokesperson for SHout said that the reason for fewer illegalities was because fewer birds migrated over Malta, due to the weather conditions. If the weather had been better, more would have migrated and ended up shot.

It is satisfying that for the next three days birds will be able to continue onto their journey and breed, she said. “Of course, we are happy with the news, but we would have been happier if the season never opened,” Ms Delia said.

We have been proven right - Cassola 

Professor Arnold Cassola, expressing his content, said that this proves that the anti-hunting campaign was right all along.

“Kathleen Grima and the families portrayed on the billboards of the yes campaign were nothing but a big bluff. At least in the next three days, we’ll be able to save birds, although is unfortunate for those that have already been shot,” he said.

Professor Cassola said that technological era we live in ensured that illegalities were reported and widespread. “ We only know about those reported, god knows how many more there was.”

In a statement, Professor Cassola added: "It was and still is patently obvious that spring hunting makes no sense despite Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil's posturing."

Collective punishment 'totally unfair' - Lino Farrugia  

FKNK CEO Lino Farrugia said it was totally unfair to apply collective punishment for the actions of a few. Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Farrugia said collective punishment has always been, and always will be unacceptable, not only where hunting is concerned.

“Hunting abuse incidents take place in all EU countries but no country applies collective punishments on all hunters. This does not only apply to hunting.”

Mr Farrugia said many hunters obeyed the law and it was totally unfair that they should pay the price for the actions of others. “We said in our press release earlier today that we want those responsible to be caught and punished but the punishment should not be inflicted on all of us. We are deeply disappointed by the Prime Minister’s decision.”


We fought for this season to open, and the majority supported us – Kaccaturi San Uberto

Mark Mifsud Bonnici, spokesperson for Kaccatturi San Ubertu said that closing down the season is not the answer to preventing illegalities, because there will always be rebels who choose to do otherwise.

He said that this season was exemplary, because fewer illegalities were committed.

“First off, we should have established whether today’s incident was committed by a hunter. Last year, a stork was shot by someone who did not have a hunting license. Why should all hunters suffer at the expense of the mistakes of others? Should we abolish driving simply because some choose to drive drunk?   We have fought our way to opening this season, and the majority has showed support, it should not have been closed down by such a blatant statement,” he said.



Decision was inevitable - PN

Opposition spokesperson on hunting and trapping, PN MP Charlo Bonnici, said the closing of the spring hunting season was inevitable. “Today’s incident could not have been allowed to pass. Spring hunting does not mean that illegalities should be permitted. The government is responsible for law enforcement. Today’s incident was not the only one. For this reason, the government’s decision was inevitable.”

Reality of spring hunting came crashing down in the schoolyard - LACS

The UK’s League Against Cruel Sports reaction welcomed the PM’s decision and said the shot-down kestrel crashing into a Maltese school yard has achieved what a national referendum failed to do – stop the island’s bird massacre.

Joe Duckworth, Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “The reality of what the Spring Hunt is all about has clearly come crashing down into this playground. It would have been a shock for the children, but it was clearly a catalyst for the government to say ‘enough is enough. The Maltese Spring hunt is a tradition that is out of time, and should never have gone ahead. We’re delighted that it has been brought to an early halt, and we hope that a clear lesson will be learned. Hunters with guns either cannot or will not distinguish between birds that are their legal targets or any of the other species that happen to be flying overhead.


Birds flying back to Europe for the Spring breeding season are not the property of a few hunters in Malta. Shooting for sport is cruel and unnecessary so we applaud the Maltese Prime Minister for making this stand, and we hope that come next Spring, the memory of what has happened will remain strong, and the Spring Hunt banned for good.”


 Prime Minister kept his word – PL

 A spokesperson for the Labour Party, Nigel Vella, said that all evidence points at a clear decline in illegalities which can be attributed to more awareness and serious effective enforcement. “However and consistent with his pledge the day after the referendum passed, the Prime Minister kept his word and came down hard on illegalities,” he said.



BirdLife Malta lists incidents reported during hunting season

Welcoming the closure of the season,  BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara said, “The closure follows a series of recorded incidents involving illegal shooting of birds beginning with the shooting of a cuckoo on the second day of the season.

 “We welcome the decision of the Prime Minister to close the season following this latest dramatic incident. This decision means that many other birds should safely pass through Malta in the next few days, but we are sorry that young children had to see such a magnificent bird in such a terrible state. “

Reacting to a comment by an ‘Iva’ referendum campaign activist and an FKNK representative that collective punishment was not fair, Mr Barbara said, “Nearly 50% of Maltese voters have made it absolutely clear that they condemn spring hunting. In reaction to this, the Prime Minister has made it clear that the hunting community is on its last chance. His decision to close the season today is a sign that he is serious about this.”


Timeline of Incidents

15 April:   Cuckoo shot at Manikata, man fined €2,500 and claimed he mistook it for a turtle dove

16 April:  Lapwing Shot and injured near Hal Far, man sentenced to three months in prison

22 April:  Injured cuckoo found in Mizieb

24 April:    Teenager hit by lead pellets in Pembroke, claims hunter slapped his face

25 April:  CABS witness attempted shooting of kestrel close to airport

25 April: CABS film hunter after curfew

25 April:   CABS team find cuckoo in Mizieb hidden in bushes with shotgun injuries

26 April:   Yellow legged gull with injuries typical of shot gun damage foundPembroke by member of the public

27 April: Injured shot kestrel lands in grounds of St Edwards School, Cospicua

In addition, a total of 63 illegal bird callers detected by CABS during the hunting season





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