Ġanni Attard demands punishment for illegal Għarb sheep farming

A snapshot of the Land of Attard in the Il-Pirwilin region of Għarb. Image: Google Street View

Ġanni Attard, the sheep farmer from Għarb whose herd of unregistered sheep had been the subject of a long legal saga, has sought punishment for the illegally constructed sheep farm at the heart of the debacle.

Via the development application PA/1276/20, Attard asks the Planning Authority to sanction the many illegal constructions he has built in a disused quarry in an area known as Il-Pirwilin, including a sheepfold, an engine room; agricultural and fodder stores, premises for ewes and lambs in lactation, a perimeter wall and other ancillary premises. It is also looking to build additional structures including a sheepfold, water tank, garage, isolation unit, manure clamp and cesspool, and to sanction the use of the site as a sheep farm. for 500 sheep.

Attard and his sheep made headlines in November 2012, when authorities descended on his farm to cull his flock after he failed to register them. In accordance with Maltese and EU laws, all animals classified as livestock – including sheep – must be registered to ensure traceability of animal products and to help control the spread of infectious diseases.

Government veterinary staff had slaughtered half of Attard’s approximately 400 sheep before a court warrant halted their efforts.

A magistrate later ruled the action was justified on grounds of protecting public health, and a 2016 ruling by an appeals court paved the way for the rest of Attard’s herd to be culled. . This slaughter was stopped by a constitutional petition filed by Attard: the procedure is still pending.

The legal saga has also led police to 24/7 surveillance of Attard’s herd to ensure that unregistered animals – and their products – are not traded. In 2019, the police informed the Times that this surveillance had then cost more than 1.4 million euros.

According to court testimony, Attard began raising sheep between 1995 and 1996, but illegal work at the site dates back to at least 1994, when the PA launched enforcement action on the construction of agricultural stores and the use of the site as a livestock farm.

Since then, Attard has multiplied its attempts to punish illegal work and the conversion of the site into sheep farming.

In 1994, he applied for a framework permit “to build agricultural buildings”, only to be refused a permit in 1998. A request made to sanction illegalities in 1998 also proved unsuccessful, although Attard requested a review and appealed. .

A new attempt to sanction all works was filed in December 2012, although it was withdrawn before screening.

His latest candidacy goes largely along the same lines: this time, however, the selection process has been completed. Whether the PA will look more favorably on the plans remains to be seen.


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