Exotic animals should stop being allowed into the country to stub out the proliferation of zoos and private wild animal collections, the Nationalist Party said on Friday.
Addressing a press conference, PN MP Mario Galea said the least the authorities could do was stop allowing further exotic animals to be imported into the country as there were already too many.
Last year, Times of Malta reported how there were just under 400 wild animals known to be kept in captivity in Malta.
The list points towards a marked preference for big cats, with tigers, lions, and leopards among the local favourites.
Galea’s remarks came just a few days after a speech he gave in parliament on Tuesday urging the public to boycott zoos.
In an impassioned speech, Galea told the house that those who truly love animals should not visit zoos on the island.
‘Not enough space’
On Friday, Galea doubled down on his remarks, saying that while local zookeepers may very well care for the animals they keep, Malta simply does not have the space to accommodate the large enclosures big cats and other exotic animals require.
He said the animal welfare commissioner shares his views and he had discussed the matter with vets and other experts in the field.
“I know that there are some who may not agree with me. But I stand by this,” he said.
Asked if this was his personal position or that of the PN, Galea said he had held this view since 2013, under three separate party leaders. Since he had never been told to rein in his comments, then he understands that it is the party position too, Galea said.
“Until some expert or someone else comes up with another position, this is my position, it is the animal welfare commissioner’s position, and it is the party’s position,” he said.
Galea’s speech in parliament did not go down well with outspoken zookeeper Anton Rea Cutajar who hit back with a strongly worded Facebook post.
Cutajar posted a photo of a lush lawn at his zoo, accompanied with the comment “at L-Arka ta’ Noe we have green land but there are people who are green with envy”.
He went on to write that his zoo has more volunteers than the party of which Galea forms part.
Last year, animal welfare commissioner Alison Bezzina said she had sought legal advice after Cutajar issued online threats against her.
Speaking on Friday, Galea also urged the government not to give in to the “bullying” of certain zoo keepers and to forge ahead with a proposed reform of the sector which appears to have been left on the back burner.
PN concerned about future of agriculture
Friday’s press conference was also addressed by PN agriculture spokesman Edwin Vassallo who said the government was not doing enough to ensure this sector survives.
He said the PN has a vision for the agriculture sector based on principles of security of food supply, sustainability of farming and fishing, and regeneration of these two sectors.
Malta, he said, is facing the very real possibility of a shortage of supply of local produce in the coming years as many are abandoning the agriculture sector for pastures greener.
Vassallo said the government has an important role to play here in ensuring the sector survives.
However, the Labour administration was not doing anywhere near enough to help support farmers and those in the fishing industry that are struggling to make ends meet.
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