I recently received this letter from the British High Commission in Malta after emailing them to ask them, what they were doing on my behalf to make my feelings about illegal spring hunting clear to the Maltese government.


Dear Dr Avery,

Thank you for your email about the hunting of wild birds in Malta.

European Union Directive 2009/147/EC on the Conservation of Wild Birds (commonly known as the ‘Wild Birds Directive’) was adopted in November 2009, and codified an earlier Directive of April 1979. This obliges all Member States to provide and effectively enforce a system of strict protection for all wild birds (including their eggs and nests) to ensure that domestic legislation aligns with European requirements. Owing to its bio-geographical location, which restricts hunting opportunities during the autumn migration, the Maltese Government has been granted a derogation from certain aspects of the Directive in respect of turtle doves and quail. This allows Malta to permit limited recreational hunting of these species during the spring migration.

As you may be aware, there has been substantial dialogue between the European Commission and Malta regarding this derogation. In 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled that some aspects of the derogation issued by the Maltese Government between 2004 and 2007 to permit spring hunting activities did not comply with Article 9.1(c) of the Directive, and as such Malta had failed to fulfil its obligations. In 2010, the Maltese Government implemented new measures to manage spring hunting activities.

Compliance with European Union Directives is a matter between individual Member States and the European Commission and it is not for HM Government to comment on Malta’s compliance with the Wild Birds Directive. Furthermore, it is for the Maltese Government to investigate any illegal hunting activities, such as shootings of rare and protected species, which are alleged to be taking place in violation of Malta’s permitted hunting regime. The UK Government is firmly opposed to the illegal hunting of wildlife, and supports the Commission’s efforts to ensure full compliance with the Wild Birds Directive.

The impact of spring hunting in Malta on wildlife in the UK has not been conclusively investigated. However, British ministers have discussed spring hunting with their Maltese counterparts on several occasions, and encouraged them to enforce legislation to combat illegal hunting. On 7 May 2014, a Westminster Hall debate outlined UK policy on the protection of migratory birds in Malta. At this debate, the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for farming, food and marine environment, George Eustice MP, stated on behalf of the Government:

“Where there is evidence to suggest that illegal hunting activity is occurring, the UK Government encourages all relevant authorities to ensure that sufficiently robust action is taken.”

The British High Commissioner and his team in Malta are in regular contact with the Maltese authorities and with birdlife NGOs, both to discuss matters relating to spring hunting but also in support of the High Commission’s strong consular interest in the safety of British nationals, including those involved in camps monitoring the spring hunting season in Malta.

I hope the above information is helpful. You may also wish to contact your local MEP, who has the capacity to raise these matters directly in the European Parliament.

With best wishes,


I’m a bit shocked by the ‘Compliance with European Union Directives is a matter between individual Member States and the European Commission and it is not for HM Government to comment on Malta’s compliance with the Wild Birds Directive.‘ because that is exactly what I would like my government to be doing, please.

Being part of a club means sticking to the rules of that club – Malta is not. Malta is reaping the benefits of EU membership and ignoring the rules it doesn’t like. That is absolutely the type of thing that the other members of the club should complain about – directly if needs be. I am a keen European – but that doesn’t mean that I cannot be frustrated with the EU. In this case I am frustrated by the EU and the pathetic response of my own government.


I await with interest William Hague’s response to the letter along the same lines from my excellent MP, Andy Sawford.


7 Replies to “Malta”

  1. Another disturbing sentence:

    “The impact of spring hunting in Malta on wildlife in the UK has not been conclusively investigated.”

    Er, well how much more investigation do we need? We know that migration is one of the wonders of the natural world, is quite hazardous and strenuous enough for the birds that do it, that Malta is a vital flyway, that many migrant species are in deep trouble, and we have first hand knowledge thanks to Chris Packham and others that Malta is a ‘bird hell’. Seems pretty conclusive to me. You do the maths HMG!

  2. Pathetic but not surprising. If anything this gives more ammunition to barmy Nigel and his followers. I suppose we should not forget all the positive legislation for wildlife obtained through membership in Europe.

    This makes Chris Packham’s exploits even more important to bring all this evil slaughter to the public domain.

    Let us hope more is being done behind the scenes by our politicians which they are unwilling to share with us.

  3. This “disinterest” is a bit disingenuous! If you read the judgements of the EU court in relation to birds directive cases, you would be surprised how often the British Governments lawyers turn up often arguing/supporting the side of the guilty!

    They are happy to influence and meddle when it suits them.

  4. Hi Mark
    It must be difficult for the UK Government to take a robust approach with the Maltese and other EU Governments when it allows the persecution of birds of prey to such an extent, that many of them are strangely absent in some areas. So maybe they are just too embarrassed to discuss this too forcefully with the Maltese?

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