Sounds familiar – Malta | Poachers using ‘science’ as excuse to kill

How often have we heard ‘science’ used as an excuse for killing wildlife over the years? Leaving aside the contentious issue of collecting ‘voucher specimens’, perhaps the most infamous example is Japan’s smashing through restrictions on whaling, claiming they only kill endangered (and highly sentient) animals to learn more about them: it’s all about research, and nothing to do with stockpiling whale-meat and keeping the fleets on the seas. Of course it isn’t…

Closer to home west country Stag hunts like the Devon and Somerset Staghounds break the Hunting Act 2004, killing stags on the Quantocks using an exemption that was meant to allow ‘Research and Observation’ of living animals. Hunts use it instead to learn for how long they can chase an animal to a standstill, and just how gullible organisations like the National Trust (which owns the land they hunt over) really are. Science it is not.

Now the ridiculous law-breaking poachers of Malta (a tiny territory with a terrible reputation for its attitude towards birds and European law thanks solely to its ‘hunters’ – see “What do we do with a problem like Malta“) are trapping protected songbirds on the pretext of a “study” on their migration habits. Yes, science will be advanced immeasurably by old men randomly confining wild birds to cages (including old men who threaten to hurl rocks at people walking on public footpaths which we learned about through field observations by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) – and if you’d like to support CABS please have a look at



For what it’s worth we can provide the answer to Malta’s poachers’ pointless study from right here in the UK: trapped songbirds can’t migrate and trapped songbirds die in cages. Again, science it is not.


Birdlife Malta ‘On the move‘ campaign

Much more valuable to Malta and its birds, the excellent team at BirdLife Malta (which much better represents how Maltese people view their wonderful birds than do its poachers) have recently begun a new campaign called ‘On The Move‘.

The campaign aims to “encourage people to enjoy, care about, and protect migrating birds”. The stone-throwing ‘researchers’ amongst Malta’s dwindling band of poachers may not care to join in, but we’d like to thank BirdLife Malta on behalf of every single migrating bird that may be spared the trauma of capture and life spent in a cage.


In the meantime the Times of Malta is reporting on the serious lack of concern being shown by the authorities when it comes to prosecuting wildlife crimes involving finch trapping, quoting CABS’s Fiona Burrows: “Instead of a strict supervision we have a situation of total anarchy where even the police have no clue which rules apply, and which sites are being used for the study and which sites are being operated illegally”.

Finch trapping: ‘chaos and anarchy’ instead of strict supervision – 17 poachers may walk free as courts fail to hear their cases in time

The Munich-based CABS birdwatch group has reported rampant trapping for finches in Malta and a serious lack of law enforcement.

It said a survey flight it conducted last weekend showed that 69 bird trappers already had their sites active with nets out, days before the official opening of the trapping season on Tuesday.

A comparison of the site locations with the government’s list of registered trapping stations for Golden Plover and Song Thrush showed that 53 of these sites are not listed, suggesting they are being used to trap other species such as finches or protected waders.

It was announced earlier this month that although trapping finches has been banned in Malta since an EU court judgment in 2018, hunters still will be allowed to trap protected songbirds on the pretext of a “study” on their migration habits.

“We contacted the Wild Bird Regulation Unit on nine occasions by phone to find out about the number of finch ‘research stations’ and what their locations were but no call was answered. No legal notice, GPS locations or regulations have been published by the WBRU. On calling the police we were baffled to hear that the Environmental Protection Unit has no information about locations of sites participating in the finch research study,” CABS wildlife crime officer Fiona Burrows said.

CABS criticised Prime Minister Robert Abela and Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri for creating and using the concept of a scientific study as a smokescreen to bypass the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which has already convicted Malta for breaching EU law by allowing finch trapping in the years 2014 to 2017.

“It is a shame that the government continues to disrespect the decision of the ECJ and it is a scandal that they claim to do this in the name of science whereas in fact their only motivation is pure partisanship and client politics,” CABS biologist and Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld said.

“The so-called study has zero scientific value but at the same time enables finch trappers to pursue their selfish passion and makes it impossible for the police to uncover abuse”.

CABS also confirmed reports that court delays could see people facing trapping or hunting crime allegations go unpunished if their cases become time barred.

“At the moment we have 16 cases involving 17 poachers which will soon reach or already have reached the time limit,” Fiona Burrows stated.

All cases were reported by CABS between April 2017 and April 2018 and have officially been charged by the police. The charges include trapping of protected species, trapping out of season, hunting during the closed season as well as the use of illegally modified firearms and electronic bird-calling machines.


Anarchy. Chaos. Law-breaking. All the hallmarks of illegal hunting. Not science.