While Maltese and Gozitans were being asked to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities, 1% of the population will, as from Friday, be allowed to roam the countryside and shoot birds, Birdlife said.

It said the opening of the spring hunting season at such a delicate time was unfair on the population that came together to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Apart from this injustice, Birdlife said spring hunting was against the EU Birds Directive because birds flying to their breeding grounds should be protected, not shot.

The COVID-19 situation also put a lot of strain on the police and one seriously doubted how much the government could afford the necessary amount of enforcement officers to control the hunting situation in spring as requested by law. 

The government would need to deploy around 35 police officers in Malta and another seven in Gozo to work during the hunting hours which were from two hours before sunrise until noon.

Birdlife said it had already communicated with the European Commission about this issue along with the fact that, once again, the government chose the dates of spring hunting for quail to coincide with the peak migratory season of the vulnerable turtle-dove.

This season, which will run until April 30, was designed as a smokescreen for hunters to shoot at the protected turtle-dove along with a number of other protected birds.

The lack of enforcement and lack of discipline by the hunters themselves augured another spring massacre with many illegally shot protected birds. Birdlife said that since the closure of the last hunting season it and the police had received 21 known illegally shot protected birds. All were shot down during the closed season, with the latest being two common kestrels, a lesser kestrel and a barn swallow.

All these, it said were shot down last weekend. 

Birdlife said it was also releasing footage of a protected purple heron being shot at by hunters over Xrobb l-Għaġin last Sunday.

Conservation manager Nicholas Barbara said that in view of this Birdlife would strive to be a deterrent to illegalities and its spring watch camp would focus on particular areas known to be hotspots for illegalities.

While visiting various areas in the countryside camp members would be in constant touch with the police.

“We clearly need their cooperation as much as they need ours. We also need the public to report any illegalities they witness to police on 119 and to us on 7925 5697.”

CEO Mark Sultana said that if there was ever any doubt on the egoistic practice of hunting, this became clear when during a collective national effort to control the pandemic crisis by the public, the hunting lobby looked solely at its own members’ interests.

To make things worse, the Prime Minister considered the hunting lobby a privileged section of society, even when hunting itself was already a privilege. 

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