MANY of you will probably already
be aware of the recent controversy
surrounding the annual shooting
of migratory birds as they pass
It appears that the hunters/shooters
currently have a legal right to shoot
a certain number of turtle doves and
quail as they cross the country on their
spring migration north.
Whilst that in itself is controversial
(since the turtle dove –
pictured – in particular
is a rapidly declining species worldwide), of
even wider concern
and the subject of
condemnation is the fact that the hunters appear to
disregard national and European
legislation and shoot birds of any
species, protected or otherwise.
This indiscriminate slaughter has
been taking place for decades as Malta
is one of the prime migratory routes
from Africa to Europe.
However, when Malta joined the
EU in 2004 it was hoped that such
hunting would become a thing of the
past since spring hunting and trapping
is expressly forbidden by the EU Birds
Malta attempted to get round this by taking advantage of a derogation to the
The European Court of Justice,
however, later ruled that the Maltese
government had failed to comply with
the derogation’s conditions and as a
result ordered that the hunting should
be stopped forthwith.
In defiance, the Maltese government,
under pressure from the shooting
lobby, passed legislation allowing them to set a shooting season up to three
weeks in length.
As is the case with much European
law, the wheels of enforcement turn
slowly and so, under pressure from the
hunting lobby, the Maltese government
permits the shooting of turtle doves
and quail to continue.
With inadequate monitoring and
enforcement by the local police, this
appears to be all the cover the hunters
need to shoot birds of any species
whether they be flying, feeding on the
ground or merely roosting.
The shooting this year has been brought into sharp focus by the
Springwatch presenter, Chris Packham.
He visited Malta at the height of the
shooting season with a view to filming
it and drawing it to the attention of an
In this he has succeeded (as
supported by the fact that I am writing
about it now) and he has exposed some
of the harsh realities of the whole sad
Because, contrary to the claims of
the Maltese government and hunting
organisations, there appears to be
widespread abuse or, more correctly,
disdain for the legislation with all
species being treated as fair game.
Mr Packham and others claim that
they have seen evidence of a whole
host of species being killed, including
golden orioles, rollers, bee-eaters, a
variety of songbirds and, perhaps most
bizarrely of all barn, swallows. Plus
birds of prey such as honey buzzards,
kestrels, ospreys, and Montagu’s
Which all sounds incredibly
purposeless and wasteful and nothing
more than a shooting jamboree which
could surely be satis ed by ring off a
few dozen cartridges at some spinning
It appears, too, that there are many
residents of Malta who have had enough of the carnage and the damage
that it does to the country’s reputation.
Tens of thousands of them have
petitioned the government calling for a referendum on the issue and Birdlife
Malta is campaigning vigorously to end
the practice once and for all.
Looked at rationally, there seems
to be no justification for this annual
jamboree to continue and any of us
interested in birds should be rightly
offended and raise our own voices to
Don’t forget that some of those
birds killed will be “our” birds making
their way to these shores to breed.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer
but it would be a miserable summer
indeed if the day when few if any
swallows heading for Britain actually
To see how you can assist with
the campaign to call time on this
annual shooting party, visit www.chrispackham.co.uk.