Malta:Spring hunting referendum to be held between April and July after court gives green light

A referendum on spring hunting in Malta will be held between April and July of this year, following a court ruling on the island yesterday. A copy of the court decision is to be delivered personally to the President within 10 days, and the President is then responsible for setting a date for the vote, not earlier than three months and not later than six months after receiving this copy.

As a result, the earliest referendum day possible would be between 9-19 April. Spring hunting seasons typically open around 10-12 April and close on 30 April, and it seems unlikely that a referendum would be held during – or just before – an open hunting season, a decision which could inflame sentiments.

A decision which places power in the hands of the Maltese electorate to express themselves on an important national issue is nothing but a positive opportunity for democracy in Malta, the Coalition Against Spring Hunting (CASH) said in a statement.

Romina Tolu, Campaign Coordinator for the Coalition said, “the process which has led to this morning’s decision by the courts was a particularly lengthy one, in which the hunting lobby tried to delay and mislead the people and the courts time and time again. It is now crystal clear that the legislation in question is not an EU treaty obligation and it is more than evident that the hunting lobby were clutching at loose strings from the start.”

In view of the decision delivered, Alternattiva Demokratika Chairperson, Prof. Arnold Cassola, said: “This is the end of the secret backroom deals between PL and PN politicians and the hunting lobby in Malta. The power to decide is now all in the hands of the Maltese people who will be able to express themselves on Spring hunting in a democratic and transparent referendum to be held within six months at the latest.  I thank environmental NGOs and Civil society for having accepted Alternattiva Demokratika’s invitation a year and a half ago to form a coalition against spring hunting and for their hard work in collecting the necessary signatures.  Let us now continue the hard work to ensure that in a few months’ time we consign hunting in spring to the archives of history”.

The application dates back to August 2013, when a total of  44,376 signatures in favour of the referendum were presented by the Coalition Against Spring Hunting, which grouped together green political party Alternattiva Demokratika and a group of environmental NGOs – BirdLife Malta, the Coalition for Animal Rights, Din l-Art ?elwa, Flimkien g?al Ambjent A?jar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation, Greenhouse Malta, International Animal Rescue Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust and the Ramblers Association of Malta.

Coordinator Astrid Vella said that she is delighted that their conviction regarding the legality of their actions has been vindicated by the Constitutional Court.

“Now it is up to the public, who have so often complained of the arrogance, the destruction of the countryside and the shooting of birds caused by hunters, to make a stand when the referendum will be held”.

Executive President for Din l-Art Helwa, Simone Mizzi, described the decision as a ‘victory for democracy’. “The right to allow this ignoble and outdated practice will no longer be in the hands of our politicians who have been held to ransom by pro hunting lobbies for decades. The people can now decide to put an end to the killing of birds for sport when they are on their way to their breeding grounds,” she said.  In addition, she ensured that the organisation will continue to campaign with the aim of encouraging a good turnout, and ultimately a yes vote in favour of eradicating spring hunting once and for all.

In a statement, the Nationalist Party welcomed the decision take by the court, noting that the referendum will be held thanks to the amendments to the  Referenda Act, put forward during a Nationalist Administration. This would be the first time such a democratic tool is used in the history of our country, despite efforts by the Labour government to avoid such a referendum, the PN added.

The PN concluded that it now awaits the decision on the date, following consultations by the president with the parties involved.

See also: Date for referendum and local council elections to be announced before end of month


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