from The Times of Malta, January 23, 2002
AD praises police, armed forces for quick reaction
Calls for tougher penalties
Alternattiva Demokratika has congratulated the police force and the armed forces for taking fast and effective action against those who killed seven swans at St Thomas Bay last Sunday.
"We hope that the institutions will remain vigilant against all those who are cruel to animals and those hunters who break the law of the country," spokesman for animal rights Mark Causon said.
The Partnership for Active Animal Welfare Societies also expressed its disgust and condemnation for the killing.
"This is not the first time that the killing of swans has taken place on our island, which shows that the present legislation regarding such occurrences is not enough of a deterrent."
While congratulating the Zabbar police for their prompt intervention, PAAWS stressed that it was urgent to revise present legislation and introduce tougher penalties and/or imprisonment for animal cruelty.
BirdLife Malta said the case proved that the resources of the ALE needed to be substantially increased.
The law, Birdlife said, stipulated that the penalties handed down could include the confiscation of all the items used in the illegal activity, the suspension of the hunting licence for at least one year and a fine of between Lm50 and Lm500 for the first offence and between Lm100 and Lm1,000 for the second offence or a maximum jail term of two years, or both.
These penalties were too lenient and should be increased, said the organisation.
"The proceeds should be used for bird protection or to help finance the law enforcement authorities."
The operation carried out on Sunday to catch the offenders, which included the use of a helicopter and patrol boat, would have cost the state thousands of liri, apart from the unquantifiable value of the loss of the birds' lives, as well as the emotional stress caused to the members of the public who were enjoying the birds, Birdlife remarked.
"In addition, this and similar incidents are tarnishing Malta's image abroad with the related effect on tourism."
BirdLife reiterated its calls for the strengthening of the ALE section into a special force for the protection of nature and for the deployment of more personnel and equipment to help them control these abuses.
At the moment, 21 ALE officers had to supervise the activities of over 11,000 hunters, over 3,000 trappers, and carry out other nature protection and duties which were not environment related, the organisation said.