Updated 12.15pm with BirdLife reaction

A man was beaten up by a foreign couple while legally bird trapping in Gozo, the FKNK hunters' federation said on Sunday.

It said the man was 'trapping legally according to the rules on research' and minding his own business when he was approached by the couple who claimed he was trapping illegally.

Instead of going to the police, the foreign man pushed the trapper to the ground and started punching him in the face. He then called on the woman to hold the trapper's feet while he continued to punch him, the federation said.

The assault was only called off when a hunter intervened to help the trapper. The trapper later went to hospital for treatment and filed a police report.

The FKNK blamed the incident on 'provocation' by BirdLife and Munich-based bird watchers CABS, whose volunteers, it said, are arrogantly occupying the countryside.  

It said that in another incident, a couple, possibly foreign, opened a cage to let free a songbird and then fled the scene before they could be stopped by the trapper who owned the bird. 

In another 'clear case of provocation', a woman let her dog walk into a bird trapper's traps, the federation said. 

The federation did not provide details on when and where the incidents took place. 

It claimed BirdLife started this 'series of provocations' when they organised a protest in the FKNK 'reserve' - a protest held a fortnight ago at Mizieb in protest over the government's handing over of woodlands to the federation.

The FKNK recalled how it called of an event it had planned in the same area to avoid confrontations. 

The federation urged its members not to allow themselves to be provoked. However, it urged the police to act to prevent such incidents. 

BirdLife condemns violence

In a reaction, BirdLife Malta said it condemns all forms of violence, even when this violence or alleged violence takes place against hunters and trappers. 

"Any incident, however, is a drop in the ocean when compared to years of
abuse, violence, intimidation and hate speech coming from many members
of the hunting and trapping lobby and directed to environmentalists and
BirdLife Malta staff, volunteers and members together with members of
other environmental organisations," it added.

It called on the authorities to enforce the law in all circumstances,
both laws which regard bird protection and illegal hunting and trapping, and
also in all other acts of violence.

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