Update: Chris Packham and St Albans cameraman film mass shooting of birds in Malta
- Credit: Photo supplied
A St Albans wildlife photographer is relieved to be home after police questioned television presenter and naturalist Chris Packham for five hours in Malta, where the men were filming birds being “massacred”.
Twenty-two-year-old Luke Massey joined BBC presenter Chris on the island where they were part of an independent production team filming the controversial annual shooting of migratory birds.
But the team’s fortnight-long trip resulted in heated arguments with police and hunters, saw one local campaigner arrested and Chris taken in for lengthy questioning on Saturday (26).
The presenter was later released and while he was not charged, Luke, who returned home on Monday, criticised the police for wasting valuable production time.
He told the Herts Ad that Chris was searched and had his phone taken away while at the station where he was questioned after hunters complained about being filmed killing birds.
Luke alleged that, according to a local campaigner translating for them, an officer referred to the group with homophobic language.
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He said some hunters had been intimidating, and that after an anxious wait while police questioned Chris on the island, he was “relieved” to be back in St Albans.
The photographer said while hunters are legally allowed to shoot quail and turtle doves on migration during the spring season in Malta, other birds are shot illegally, including eagles and kestrels.
He flew to the island to film the hunting season for an online series which can be seen on Chris’s website, “Malta massacre on migration”.
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The TV presenter’s disgust at what he described as “bird hell” was quickly picked up on social media with actors Bill Bailey and Stephen Fry tweeting for an end to the spring “slaughter”.
But the visit turned sour over the weekend when hunters apparently complained about being filmed, prompting the police to call in Chris in for questioning.
The presenter has since also returned to the UK and has been speaking about his ordeal to national papers and the BBC.
Chris told the Herts Ad last Friday (25): “I want people to watch the videos, but I don’t want them to boycott Malta, because the vast majority of Maltese are also against this.”
He had been stunned by the “sheer number” of birds being shot.
Chris added: “They are shooting anything from swifts to swallows – they are just target practice. This is very distressing.”
And the hunting has an impact on the number of birds flying on to Britain.
Luke explained: “There have been 370 species of birds recorded in Malta, including birds such as swallows on their way to Britain. I can’t comprehend why people want to have them stuffed and put on their mantelpiece.”
The Mediterranean island has an exemption from the EU Birds Directive, allowing local hunters to shoot quail and turtle doves during spring migration, but there are moves for a referendum to halt the practice.