The 'Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting' (CASH) has formally launched a petition calling for the holding of a referendum on the abolition of spring hunting.
The coalition is made up of the Ramblers Association of Malta, Nature Trust, Moviment Graffiti, International Animal Rescue Malta, Greenhouse Malta, Gaia Foundation, Friends of the Earth Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Coalition for Animal Rights, BirdLife Malta and Alternattiva Demokratika.
The petition reads:
“We the undersigned persons being registered as voters for the election of members of the House of Representatives demand that the question whether the following provision of law, that is to say Framework for Allowing a Derogation Opening a Spring Hunting Season for Turtledove and Quail Regulations (Subsidiary Legislation 504.94 – Legal Notice 221 of 2010), should not continue in force, shall be put to those entitled to vote in a referendum under Part V of the Referendum Act.”
In order for the referendum to be called at least 34,000 Maltese who are eligible to vote in a general election must sign the petition. The petition for the referendum cannot be signed online. Copies of the petition are being made available from firstname.lastname@example.org or from the members of the Coalition mentioned above.
During a press conference coalition spokesperson Rudolph Ragonesi described the referendum as a “real chance for the people of Malta to end the cat and mouse game between the European Union and Malta that means spring hunting continues against the wishes of the vast majority of the Maltese population.”
Members of the coalition complained during the press conference that both major political parties had committed themselves to protect spring hunting. Max Farrugia from International Animal Rescue Malta said that during the election campaign protection of spring hunting was one of the issues but soon after the elections the new government removed the €50 special licence fee and identification armbands for registered hunters. As a result there were 50% more registered hunters during the spring hunting season of 2013 compared with 2012.
It is worth noting that spring hunting is possible in Malta through a derogation of the EU Birds Directive. Hunting is allowed in spring for Turtle Dove (Gamiema) and Quail (Summiena) but both have become species of conservation concern because their numbers are declining so rapidly in Europe, the coalition said. Continued hunting in spring put Malta at risk of action such as fines from the EU.
It was stated in the press conference that "From a conservation and hunting point of view it makes no sense to hunt birds that are returning to their breeding grounds. These are the birds that have survived the winter and would replenish bird populations if they reached their breeding grounds. Killing them in spring is therefore unsustainable."