BirdLife Malta launched its “Your Voice Counts’ campaign video in which members of the public voice serious environmental concerns.
Members of the public called on politicians to protect wildlife and ensure safe access to Maltese countryside in a three minute video which includes footage of Wildlife Crime and the 2007 Pro Hunting march.
(Watch the video here)
Talking about the video, BirdLife Executive Director Steve Miclewright said, “The video really shows that people want their candidates to be strong and stand up to the bullying of the hunting lobby. The Your Voice Counts campaign asks people to give this message directly to their candidates, it is unfortunate for Malta’s democratic processes that candidates have not provided voters with the information they need to talk to them in a constructive way.”
Birdlife also published the results of its ‘Your Voice Counts’ campaign questionnaire, which asked political candidates to answer eight questions about their positions on wildlife and countryside issues. It was sent to a total of 165 candidates: 85 Labour, 71 Nationalist and nine from Alternativa Demokratika.
While all the AD candidates answered in the first week, and despite BirdLife sending the questionnaire twice as an online survey and then hand-delivered in individually addressed envelops to the Nationalist and Labour Party headquarters, only four Labour candidates and a single Nationalist candidate returned completed questionnaires.
Commenting on the lack of response from PN and PL candidates, Chris Debono, Conservation and Policy Officer, said “it is worrying, as it either indicates a widespread unwillingness of to engage in public discussion about wildlife and countryside issues that affect voters, or that candidates may have been instructed by their parties not to repond.”
“If election candidates refuse to publicly state their positions on such issues, how are voters supposed to assess which candidates best represent their views?” asked Mr Debono.
Amongst those who failed to answer the questionnaire were both party leaders; their deputies, Simon Busutil and Louis Grech; Minister for Tourism, Culture and the Environment, Mario de Marco, and his opposite number, Leo Brincat; and pro-hunting MP Michael Falzon.
However, the answers of those candidates who did respond showed “a general willingness to seek improvements on both conservation and safe public access to the countryside”, said Mr Debono.
Every respondent acknowledged Malta’s obligation to protect migrating birds and agreed that hunting and trapping should be banned in public nature parks, such as Xrobb L-Għagin and Majjistral Nature and History Park. All the respondents also said that they would support the enforced removal of illegal structures and signs from public and private land in the countryside, and the extension of no-hunting zones around residential areas.
Thirteen out of fourteen candidates said they would support the formation of a dedicated wildlife crime unit to enforce nature and wildlife protection laws and tackle the problem of illegal hunting and trapping.
Perhaps most significantly, according to BirdLife’s Conservation Manger, Nicholas Barbara, twelve out of the fourteen respondents agreed that Malta “should strictly follow and enforce the Birds Directive without the application of derogations to allow hunting in spring and trapping”.
“The recognition that spring hunting and trapping are not sustainable or justifiable is very encouraging”, said Mr Barbara. “It is a shame that more of the candidates didn’t respond.”