Shooting in spring is banned throughout the European Union, except in Malta where hunters have been permitted to shoot a few thousand turtle doves and common quails. This year it was limited to quails alone, because the turtle dove is deemed vulnerable to extinction. But the reality is that hunters shoot and capture many other species too.
Every spring, volunteer birdwatchers from across Europe set up camp in tourist hotels beside holidaymakers to keep an eye on the hunters. When I was there, a group of artists was also observing and responding through art, including painting on hunters’ huts.
The birds are migrants, passing through Malta between breeding grounds in Northern Europe and wintering habitats in Africa. They do not belong to any nation.
Observers take the illegally shot birds to a local vet – who needs anonymity for fear of reprisals – to confirm cause of death for legal prosecutions. At the veterinary practice, I captured images of these slain migrants.