The Malta Independent 15 June 2024, Saturday
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Majority of MEP candidates will defend spring hunting at EU level

Kevin Schembri Orland & Albert Galea Sunday, 5 May 2019, 09:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

The majority of Malta’s MEP candidates would defend spring hunting at EU level if elected, an exercise conducted by this newsroom shows.

Candidates from the two major parties all said that they would do so ‘out of respect’ for the 2015 referendum on the subject, even though some claimed to be against the very idea of spring hunting. Candidates from smaller parties such as Partit Demokratiku and Alternattiva Demokratika did not mince their words, however, saying that they would not defend the practice at all.

The Malta Independent on Sunday asked all MEP candidates for their opinion on spring hunting, and whether they would defend it in the EU. Their answers were as follows:

Nationalist Party

Roberta Metsola

Much more needs to be done to tackle abuse in this regard. Spring hunting has been decided on through a referendum and that result should be respected.

David Casa and Francis Zammit Dimech

Prior to Malta’s accession to the EU, a PN government had negotiated a derogation for spring hunting, duly regulated to ensure sustainability. Moreover, there has been a democratic decision in favour of spring hunting through a referendum that held with specific reference to the subject. It is therefore our commitment and duty to defend both the derogation negotiated by the PN as well as the democratic decision of the people of Malta.

Michael Mercieca

I am in favour of protecting all species and will keep on working to protect any species from endangerment or extinction. I am sure that this feeling is endorsed by all Maltese people of good character. At the same time, the EU is based on the principle of equality between its citizens, so I believe that every Maltese citizen should have the same rights as other EU citizens.

David Stellini

As with all matters of EU law, member states should be treated equally, and if other EU countries are allowed to hunt and trap finches, the same should apply to Malta with proper regulation. All laws on hunting and trapping should be enforced thoroughly and appropriately.

Michael Briguglio

I do not agree with spring hunting, but I respect the democratic verdict of the referendum. Malta should adhere to EU and national biodiversity legislation.

Peter Agius

I will defend the derogation with every means at my disposal, because Malta’s accession to the EU is the result of a social contract, which includes hunters and their right to hunt. I despise the idea of shooting a bird out of the sky, but I will defend that right, as our words are our credibility. I will not falter on that. Let us also bear in mind that barely any turtle dove and quail migrate over Malta in autumn.

On hunting and trapping, time is ripe to move the discussion from the political to the technical. The FKNK’s idea of releasing turtle dove bred in captivity is a step in this direction, although it needs further refinement. We must aim for long-term sustainability, where all organisations collaborate on a set of defined objectives based on long-term suitability, and not simply try to extinguish each other.

Roselyn Borg Knight

I am personally against spring hunting; however, I believe in respecting the outcome of the referendum, and what is important is that the relevant laws are always observed.

Dione Borg

I believe Malta should respect local and EU laws in this respect.

Frank Psaila

A referendum was held on the matter. That decision must be respected.


Labour Party

Miriam Dalli

As a member of the European Parliament’s environment committee, I defended Malta against those who tried to single out our country, when similar practices are taking place in other EU member states. But the law must always be respected. If the subject is the protection of different species, then we should have a wide discussion on all such practices in the EU. Some individual MEPs speak of highly exaggerated numbers that are not even verified. Other factors in the decline of bird species across the European continent should be taken into consideration, including the use of harmful pesticides and the destruction of natural habitats.

Lorna Vassallo

I would be an MEP elected by the Maltese people in the name of a political party and, therefore, I would loyally represent the Maltese people and my political party, not myself.  When it comes to spring hunting, the Maltese people have spoken very decisively through a referendum. The party, too, has very clear guidelines. Moreover, I was born in a village of dialect-speaking farmers, hunters and bird-trappers. I intimately relate to them.

Felix Busuttil

There exists a fine line between the love for the freedom and the protection of all life forms and the undeniable fact that spring hunting is a hobby intertwined within the tradition and fabric of Maltese society. Many spring hunters suffer from bouts of depression as they feel that their most sincere, unequivocal love for this sport is seriously threatened. During negotiations, Malta committed itself to enforcing hunting rules and curbing illegal practices more effectively. Malta should be treated equally when other nations have not abolished such practices. Nevertheless, I am unequivocally against killing of protected birds and putting captured songbirds in small cages. Sustainability should always be monitored. On the other hand, I am not in a position to personally witch-hunt hunters and trappers. Their passion for the sport must be conserved through compromise.

Josianne Cutajar

I am a democrat. The Maltese population voted in a referendum a few years back, brought about by the Coalition Against Spring Hunting (CASH). The people voted and they voted in favour of hunting for quail and turtledove in spring. I believe that trying to reverse a democratic vote poses a greater risk to our society than sustainable spring hunting.

Fleur Vella

The spring hunting referendum sealed Malta’s commitment towards keeping spring hunting. Of course, sustainability is also a core value which needs to be respected, even for the same continuation of this tradition.

Cyrus Engerer

I respect the results of the referendum held in 2015, where the majority of Maltese voted to allow limited spring hunting in Malta, and the judgement by the European Court of Justice stating that there is no alternative in Malta to spring hunting when it comes to turtle dove and quail. With this in mind, I am in favour of derogations for Malta to allow limited and sustainable hunting of these two species in spring.

Alex Agius Saliba

I think that Maltese hunters should not be treated any differently from those in other member states. As MEP, I would be prepared to defend hunters, as I feel that they are being treated unfairly.

Josef Caruana

I made my opinion clear on the issue especially during the referendum in 2015. Back then, while at the helm of L-Orizzont, I even suggested all our readers, including those like myself who weren’t hunters, vote in favour. In a civilised society, I will always respect others, even though their opinions differ from mine. But I could never accept the extreme arguments that were being brought forward by the ‘No’ campaigners in those days. These were unrealistic and sometimes ridiculous. Still, I’m also in favour, as I was back then, of all the disciplinary procedures and fines against those who egoistically ignore the laws during the hunting season.

Robert Micallef

Individual member states should have the competence to advance their own socio-cultural traditions without unnecessary restrictions. However, EU legislation should be respected by member states, including the requirements of the Birds and Habitats Directive.

Mary Gauci

As you can appreciate, I come from the island of Gozo, where spring hunting is a very popular sport. No doubt, the issue of spring hunting has been tackled very diligently since the Labour Party’s election to government. In line with what the Labour government managed to put in place, that is, the practice of the sport itself and the responsibility of the hunter to treat the birds crossing over the island well, I personally feel that what has been achieved to date is suitable. In this regard, as an island, we do not need to create any issue about the matter, since both Gozitan and Maltese people who enjoy spring hunting have shown responsibility and a positive attitude towards the environment thanks to the Labour government. In the light of this, were I to be elected to serve as one of Malta’s MEPs, I would defend spring hunting in the same way the Labour Party in government has tackled the issue over the past six years. I am sure that MEPs from other member states would understand my stance on the matter, which I take together with the party in government, that is, spring hunting should continue to be considered a sport very much liked in rural villages. However, one admits that, due to climate change, the migration of birds and the routes they fly have also changed, meaning that the sport itself has changed too.

Noel Cassar

My personal opinion on spring hunting is that Malta should have the same rights as other countries. If other EU countries have the right to practise this tradition, Malta should too. In fact, I am of the opinion that Maltese’s government should open discussions with the European Commission for a long-term solution. The Maltese government remains committed to protecting Maltese practices, while also respecting applicable regulations and the sustainability of this practice.


Alternattiva Demokratika

Carmel Cacopardo

I will never defend spring hunting. It has to end as soon as possible. Tradition in no way justifies the massacre of birds.

Mina Tolu

In 2015, I co-ordinated the campaign against spring hunting with BirdLife Malta, as well as Alternattiva Demokratika, activists and environmental NGOs. I continue to be against spring hunting and I would never defend it.


Partit Demokratiku

Godfrey Farrugia

I am personally against spring hunting but in favour of sustainable hunting. So, no to spring hunting, yes to sustainable hunting, for obvious reasons.

Anthony Buttigieg

Simply put, I am totally against it, and I would not defend it in the EU. Apart from any personal like or dislike towards hunting as practiced here in Malta, it simply doesn’t make sense. When a bird is shot in spring, an entire brood is shot as the breeding potential has been lost, leading to an accelerated decline in numbers. It is a short-sighted, selfish, and illogical practice.

Martin Cauchi Inglott

I’m not in favour of spring hunting, as nature is there to be enjoyed by everyone. Birds multiply in spring. I do, however, respect that a referendum was lost and the will of the majority must be respected. In 1992, I was in Germany with my patrol boat crew who were virtually all hunters. Since they had no shotguns, they resorted to cameras and took spectacular photos of the amazing birdlife. So if elected, I would not actively work against spring hunting, but would foster local awareness of nature’s beauty.


Moviment Patrijotti Maltin

Simon Borg

Definitely, yes, I am committed to defending the Maltese traditions, culture and identity in the EU, namely by insisting that the Maltese hunters and trappers are granted what they were originally promised.

Naged Megally

I believe in the right of Maltese hunters to practise a tradition inherited from their ancestors, which is part of Maltese culture. I also believe in the right of birds to live and breed. Unfortunately, with our government’s policy of open borders to EU and non-EU citizens, including illegal immigrants, Malta has become over populated. As a consequence, many trees have been eradicated to widen streets and build more flats; therefore, there is less space for nests. We first must stop our island’s overpopulation, and then solve spring hunting by breeding more turtledove and quail so hunters can practise their hobby.


Alleanza Bidla

Ivan Grech Mintoff and Rebecca Dalli Gonzi

Hunting is accepted throughout Europe. Provided that Maltese hunters abide by strict protocol, then AB does not see why Maltese hunters should be treated differently to their European counterparts. Unfortunately, the hunting fraternity lets itself down repeatedly and breaks Maltese/EU law. This is totally unacceptable, and AB will not overlook and excuse such behaviour. Laws are there for everyone equally and we do not tolerate any law breaking.

Independent Candidates

Arnold Cassola

I am totally against spring hunting. I would try to have it abolished.

Antoine Borg

Hunting is a pastime enjoyed by people all over the EU. As long as hunters abide by the rules, I have no problem with them or their hobby. Rules, however, are flexible instruments that can change based on necessity. Once species are threatened, or once our biodiversity is under threat, the rules should change — and so should hunters.

Mario Borg

My manifesto is mainly on Malta-EU treaty changes intended for the Maltese to determine the laws and future of our country. We decide our own future, not Brussels. The hunters’ representatives (alike other representatives negatively affected by the treaty, such as fishermen, farmers, unions, and cultural groups) will draft the new agreement. Should the EU not accept the treaty amendments, a leave referendum (Mexit) would be launched. Representatives will be flown to Brussels to discuss their requests; half of my MEP wage will be put aside to cover such and other expenses. Malta needs its right of self-determination back.

Stephen Florian

Speaking from an environmental standpoint, I do not think that spring hunting is a wise idea. Nevertheless, Maltese hunters have a right to practise their hobby, and a sustainable compromise should be reached. Countries like Austria and Spain have deregulated hunting restrictions accordingly so that a fair and sustainable eco-balance might be reached. We have to keep in mind that there is a wide range of situations regarding hunting restrictions around the EU, the latest case being in Poland, where a drastic reform was conducted less than two years ago. Nature does not behave in the same way all across the EU. What is good for the goose is not good for the gander. Nature knows what is best and adjusts. Human nature must also be taken into account. We, the Maltese, should learn from the good practices of other EU partners without shooting ourselves in the leg.

MEP candidates whose responses are not included in this article did not send their answers in time, save for independent candidate Nazzareno Vassallo, whom this newsroom failed to make contact with

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