(will be sent by email and post - copies to Commissioners Wallström and Verheugen)
PLease let me have your comments soonest. Be brief and positive. Lte me have alternative wording Don't hesitate to pick up any errors.
Dear Chris Kealy,
You replied a few days ago to one of our members on the subject of our campaign against the exceptions granted to Malta for spring hunting in the EU accession negotiations.
Before replying to your points in detail I would like to quote from a mail sent to Proact by one of our Maltese members:
"I have read the reply to Mr. N.N. in Mr. Hain's name, dated 29 Nov 2002.
I strongly object to Mr Kealy referring to a few thousand bird trappers and bird shooters as 'the Maltese', as if the entire Maltese population had this vile practice at heart. The implication is there.
The vast majority of the Maltese people are animal lovers and detest the torturing and killing of any kind of bird, during any season whatsoever.
I have to add that I am also disgusted by the concessions that the EU allowed to Malta vis a vis bird persecution.
I do not think that Mr Kealy's final argument for concessions holds water, because the EU can put pressure on Malta to respect international hunting laws, whether Malta joins the EU or not!
To your letter:
You open by saying that you " have been asked to reply on Mr Hain's behalf". I can well understand that the Minister for State with responsibility for the European Union, Central Europe and Southern Europe has little time to involve himself personally with the annual fate of thousands of our European migrant birds. Because this is what it is all about not just a few finches, turtle doves and quails, important as they are [Matthew ]. On the other hand, as one who remembers and still admires Peter Hain for his difficult and courageous personal stand against the evils of apartheid (with little support from the then British government or the forces of law and order), I cannot believe that he would approve the mild, indirect and detached reply you have sent in response to our campaign to put a stop to the bi-annual brutal and savage slaughter of migrant birds on the Maltese islands. Ask him and let us know please!
You continue ". Malta to be allowed five years after they accede (until the end of 2008) to phase out the trapping of seven types of finch.The Maltese say that the phasing out of this practice is necessary to set up a captive breeding system and will also reduce the risk of illegal trapping."
Just to make it clear to you what this means. Over the next seven years Maltese trappers will continue to trap the same species of small birds which fly around in our gardens at5 home and land on our feeders. These birds will be kept in small cages with little room to move, often poorly fed and watered, and sold on the market in Valetta and other towns. The rest of their life will be spent on balconies or indoors singing for the pleasure of their 'owners'. The song can be enjoyed, and would be heard more frequently, if these birds were left in their natural environment. Try living in a cage in the sun yourself - an hour will suffice. As to the perversion of breeding captive strains of naturally occurring species to the same end, which is what you and the other European governments are agreeing to, I leave that to your consciences. Perhaps you should visit Malta privately and see for yourself.
More to come "You mentioned the taking of turtle dove and quail in Spring.The Maltese are intending to permit these activities by means of a derogation, to which all Member States are entitled.Such a derogation is subject to strict conditions, which the EU spelt out clearly in its agreement with Malta."
'Taking' of turtle dove and quail. Oh dear your slip (or could it be your conscience after all) is showing. Taking = shooting with subsequent neck-wringing = killing as I am sure you know. Apart from the fact that these are also migrant birds, who are on the Red List in several European countries, why exactly should Malta be granted a derogation? Just because they ask for one? And what are the strict conditions? Günter Verheugen has also replied to us and stated:
" I assure you that the Commission will avail itself of all the means at its disposal in order to monitor closely Malta's respect of its commitments in this area."
Perhaps either you or Mr Verheugen could spell out how this will be done. I herewith offer the services of my organisation and its members as part of an identifiable EU monitoring team during the migration windows on Malta. Because, as I inferred above, this is what it is all about. As concerned European environmentalists, who have followed events on Malta over many years, we do not believe that the Maltese hunters will stop slaughtering migrating birds just because Malta is in the EU. Nor do we believe that the Maltese government has either the will or resources to ensure that this barbaric and illegal spectacle becomes a thing of the past. We had hoped, that by banning ALL hunting during spring migration, the EU would send a strong signal to Malta and other European states. Instead, we fear that exactly the opposite will occur and that other current and prospective member states will seek similar exceptions. This will inevitably lead to the watering down of the Bird and Habitat Directives. Terms which are often bandied about in EU committee circles such as 'small numbers' and 'sustainable exploitation' are disingenuous and dangerous.
The state of our European environment with its dwindling natural resources cannot tolerate any further inroads. Hunting for sustenance or livelihood in our climes and society has long been a thing of the past. Hunting for sport or pleasure does not fit in with our modern global ethic and is potentially disastrous for the survival of our planet as other than a cultivated and industrialised desert..
In the hope of a more positive reaction to our concerns for the conservation of our European environment, for us and our descendants' heritage, we remain,