Critics say island custom of hunting birds migrating across Mediterranean is cruel because they are killed before they can breed
Thursday 24 September 2015 17.05 BSTLast modified on Friday 25 September 201500.01 BST
The European commission has referred Malta to the EU’s top court over the controversial tradition of hunting birds migrating across the Mediterranean every spring, officials have said.
Malta has been at odds with Brussels for years over the issue. Critics of the practice say it is cruel as birds are killed before they can breed, but supporters defend it as a longstanding custom.
“The European commission is referring Malta to the court of justice of theEuropean Union over its decision to allow finch trapping on its territory as of 2014,” the commission, the executive body of the 28-member EU, said.
The European court of justice found Malta guilty in 2009 of permitting the hunting of birds during their return from Africa to breeding grounds in Europe, before they had a chance to reproduce.
But while spring hunting is outlawed by the EU birds directive, Malta applies yearly for a short period of exemption. Maltese voters also narrowly approved the continuation of the hunts in a referendum in April.
The European commission said the yearly exemptions should be used “judiciously, with small numbers and strict supervision” but added that “these conditions have not been met in this case”.