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Opinion | Wednesday, 05 May 2010 Issue. 162

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Year-round hunting approved in Italy

I cannot understand how the European Union is pointing its guns only at Malta and its hunters when on, 14 April 2010, the agriculture committee of the Chamber of Deputies in Italy approved (by 21 votes to 17) a sub-amendment to article 43 of the EU law on shooting, which allows regional authorities to postpone closing dates for the shooting calendar: provided there is a validating opinion from ISPRA, the national institute for environmental research and protection

This at a time when Brussels gave us six days to hunt on condition that if we do not obey we will not have spring hunting next year at all.

I cannot understand how Italy can, with this new law, practically extend its hunting season all the year round but Malta cannot. I cannot understand how at the same time the European Commission is being so paranoid about Malta when another country in Southern Europe has just voted to extend the hunting season.

Brussels discriminates against us and treats us like babies when it gave us permission to hunt for only a mere six days this Spring, expecting us to SMS every catch and warning us that if we do not behave we will not have spring hunting next year. Malta has now until 2 May to prove to Brussels that we behaved by sending it a detailed report on the enforcement and controls during this farcical hunting season.

But it seems that Italy is not part of the EU, and the birds that migrate over Malta do not migrate over Italy and other parts of Southern Europe. We all know that Italy is also a conduit for millions of migrating birds to and from northern Europe and it is unjust for Birdlife International to pick on Malta as if only Malta is a vital stepping-stone for these birds on their exhausting journey northwards, and as if only Malta is affecting all European Nations.

The text presented by Isidoro Gottardo of the People of Freedom (PDL) lays down that “without prejudice to provisions relating to ungulates, regions may postpone closing dates for certain species and to that end are required to obtain in advance the validating opinion of scientific analysis in support of the proposed changes from ISPRA, after consultation with the equivalent regional bodies where these exist and are recognised by the European Community, with which they must comply. The advance opinion must be delivered within 30 days of receipt of the request”. The approved text also makes provision for a ban on shooting individual species “during return to the nesting ground, during the nesting period and during the birds’ reproduction and dependence stages”.

The environmentalist protested against this vote saying that this law is at the “free-for-all” and “slaughter waiting to happen”, since regional presidents will in effect be able to permit shooting at any time of year. Some members of the government, including tourism minister Maria Vittoria Brambilla, expressed doubts at extending shooting seasons but the majority’s ranks held firm and the amendment was passed.

For environmentalists, their communiqué claims that “approval of these proposals is a blow to the very heart of migration. It strikes at the most crucial moment in nature’s cycle and strikes Italy’s culture, which is openly hostile to shooting, as every poll taken in recent years has shown”. In a separate communiqué, Animalisti Italiani, the animal rights league LIDA and the animal protection group OIPA referred to the “odious provision for unregulated shooting contained in article 43 of the 2009 EU law”.

But the environmentalists know that they have a very hard nut to crack in Italy. They know that in Italy there is a lot of money in the supply of guns and ammunition and the Italian armaments industry is very powerful indeed. In Malta they come and conquer and I will not be surprised if they do this without a work permit.

The Italians managed and are still conducting a very wise campaign based on tradition in the sport and in cuisine. In 2004 Birdlife International and FACE (the Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the EU) reached an agreement on 10 points that enabled hunting to continue in a well-regulated framework.

Ever adept at rule bending, Italian hunting proponents wheedled concessions where the rules can be suspended and protected species killed for ‘agricultural’ and other exceptions. One of the things they regarded as a legitimate ‘exception’ is preservation of ‘tradition’ – in this case the demand for carcasses of small birds used in polenta dishes in the Lombardia and Veneto regions.

Yes, it is illegal to serve this in restaurants but when local hunting is controlled then container loads of tiny birds are brought in Romania and other countries.
The Italian idea of ‘exception’ is not consistent with what was intended and several cases. Just last year, there was provision in the Veneto alone for over a million meadow pipits to be caught ‘legitimately’.

Let’s face it - who counts the tiny mutilated bodies? They allow the hunting of starlings (numbers falling everywhere in Europe) claiming they damage olive harvests. God bless the Italians for their ingenuity!

Brussels is always controlled by lobby groups and if the environmentalists are more powerful in Brussels than Malta it means that they have a very strong lobby group and Malta a very weak one. Otherwise, how can one explain that the same lobby group is not as powerful in Spain, Italy, Greece and other parts of Southern Mediterranean where all the migratory birds fly?

Brussels must understand that Birdlife does not have the license to trespass in other people’s property and its role is not that of vigilantes. They have no power to do the work of the police and if they want to do the job of the police and of the local wardens they must apply for a license and a job just like ordinary people do – they are not above the law!
I never support violence but neither do I support provocation and it is very unfair and unjust to get their aim – that of stopping hunting in Malta – by provocation. My niece is a third-year medical student and she tells me how many cases they studied this year of persons treated in Mater Dei for medical problems whose real cause is the ban on hunting.
You and I who are not fond of hunting may take it as a joke when we hear them moan that part of them is dead without hunting, but it is the same as when your pet dies – you can never understand the pain that a pet owner goes through when his pet dies unless you own a pet yourself.

I cannot understand how Birdlife says it is fond of birds when someone lately told me how he was surprised at the number of birds and protected species one of them keeps at his home and which he says he keeps for research and observation. There is something which does not make sense.

On the other hand we must admit that through more control we have witnessed on these islands the presence of more birdlife which was a pleasure that we were denied for a long time.

I am not against Birdlife and its work. Nor I am against hunting. What I am against is how the Birds Directive does not apply the same way to Malta as it does in Italy and in the United Kingdom where in the latter case the Birds Directive practically does not apply at all

And if Italy can apply Article 43 of the EU law on shooting to give discretion to all its regions when to open and close the hunting season, why should Malta not follow likewise and do the same for Gozo – after all they tell us that Gozo is a region!



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Horror for little shops

Anna Mallia
Year-round hunting approved in Italy

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