Lino Farrugia, secretary of the Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK), yesterday warned that "BirdLife and co. will feel the full weight of the wrath of FKNK and Maltese hunters and trappers".

In an aggressive statement, Mr Farrugia said anyone who wanted to abolish traditions like hunting and trapping would first have to step "over a lot of dead bodies".

He said that BirdLife, whose members he described as "brainwashed children", was attempting to abolish hunting and trapping through "incorrect and alarming statements".

He referred to BirdLife's warning that the government must outlaw spring hunting immediately rather than continue to plead for allowances "in the interest of the few and to the detriment of the many" since the country risked being taken to the European Court.

The FKNK said that EU policy did not ignore the interests of any minority.

"This is precisely why he is being allowed to air his views when he definitely leads a minority group in BirdLife members, mostly brainwashed children, in comparison to the majority group of FKNK all adult members," he said, adding that these "pathetic attempts" to demoralise the government, hunters and trappers were only BirdLife's "wishful thinking and BirdLife can only dream on".

Mr Farrugia said the government was determined to use its right as an EU member state to apply for a derogation from the EU Birds Directive to allow spring hunting to take place.

He said Environment Ministry sources who considered negotiations a lost battle were probably "the usual infiltrated BirdLife friends".

He said that the infringement procedures against Malta by the European Commission were at an early stage and any European Court calls and rulings were far away. "And so what if eventually Malta is taken to the European Court? Does this court always rule in favour of the Commission and automatically impose fines?"

Mr Farrugia said the FKNK would "gladly accept the easy road of confrontation with BirdLife".