The Labour Party did not feel the need to take a stand yesterday when asked about the government's decision to allow hunting in spring to go ahead.

When contacted, MLP secretary general Jason Micallef said he understood that the decision was made after the government had evaluated the situation regarding bird flu.

Mr Micallef said it was up to the government to decide as it had the responsibility to administer the country.

"I understand that the government had evaluated the situation and that it acted on the basis of reports by its experts," Mr Micallef said.

The health and environment ministries said on Monday they had agreed there was no need for them to suspend the hunting season.

They said all factors had been analysed and the decision had been taken in view of the fact that the EU was encouraging member states not to take any "unilateral measures" in the precautions against the spread of bird flu.

Malta has adopted all directives issued by the European Commission, through its scientific committee, and in mid-February the government suspended the hunting of wild fowl from seacraft.

The Environment Ministry said Malta is considered to be a lower risk country as waterfowl, particularly ducks, bypass land and are usually seen offshore.

When asked, in view of the fact that the official statement announcing the government's decision hinged on the argument that the EU did not order a ban on hunting, whether the government was aware that there is no hunting in the EU in spring, hence no such ban was necessary, the ministry replied:

"It is a fact that the European Commission has never ordered a ban on hunting, even when the hunting season was open in other member states. Moreover, on March 15, the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Markos Kyprianou, said in a statement that 'The European Commission has no intention whatsoever to recommend increased culling of wild birds in order to combat the current avian flu crisis but has no intention either to advocate a general ban on bird hunting'.

"This statement did not exclude any particular country."

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