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NEWS | Sunday, 13 April 2008

Forgive thy trespassers… ideally, not at gunpoint

Raphael Vassallo

Maltese hunters and trappers have no more excuses to point their shotguns and/or hurl abuse at trespassers on their property. These and other widely acknowledged hunting traditions have finally been banned by the federation of hunters and trappers associations (FKNK), which this week issued guidelines for those of its member who own or rent land in the countryside.
The two-page leaflet, available from the FKNK website, helpfully informs all land-owning kaccaturi that contrary to widespread perception, threatening trespassers with a loaded firearm is not actually permissible by law… not even on one’s own property. Other unlawful activities include resorting to physical violence and/or abusive language. In the federation’s words: “(The hunter) has no right to physically, or by means of force, chase out any unauthorised person/s from his property; nor can he assault the intruder, or worse still point a firearm in his direction…”
Furthermore, hunters have now been formally advised that it is not legally permissible to relieve trespassers of their cameras, video cameras or any other form of photographic equipment, in order to break them or damage them in any way. “It is worthwhile bearing in mind that wilful damage to other people’s property could lead to criminal action and also imprisonment,” the leaflet explains.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the notoriously territorial Maltese kaccatur. The FKNK guidelines also inform hunters of their rights as land-owners and/or legally recognised tenants. These include the right to mark one’s territory by means of a permanent sign – ideally, no larger than one square metre – with the words “No Entry” (or equivalent thereof). Hunters are also free to report unwanted visitors to the police; to take photos of them for evidence purposes; and to issue a verbal warning to uninvited guests… so long as the warning does not include obscene language or any threats of violence.
The guidelines were published on Thursday ahead of the “Spring Watch Camp”: an international monitoring exercise organised by BirdLife Malta and German conservation group CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter), which opened yesterday. The declared aim of the initiative is to advise hunters on how to cope with “provocation” from birdwatchers; but the leaflet omits to mention the fact that the 2008 spring hunting season has not so far been opened in view of the ongoing infringement procedures brought against Malta by the European Commission.
Ironically, this means that the one right no longer enjoyed by hunters is the right to actually shoot birds. Let alone trespassers…

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