The private company in charge of managing the upkeep of San Anton Garden has denied that animals were left to starve as the park was closed off to the public in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Malta Embellishment and Landscaping Project said it has spoken to the Environmental Landscaping Consortium (ELC) and received assurance that recent inspections proved the animals at San Anton Gardens were in good health.
“It’s not true that the animals weren’t being fed, so much so that although the gardens were closed due to COVID-19, feeding continued as usual, including by cat feeders who were given a special permit to keep entering the garden,” it said.
The second part of this statement tallies with what animal activists have said but leaves out an important detail.
Animal rights activist Alison Bezzina said cat feeders who had for years been voluntarily feeding the cats twice a day were first completely denied entry by the ELC due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
She said it was only “after much drama and the intervention of many activists and people in authority” that the ELC granted access to the garden to one cat feeder, but only for a strict 15 minutes a day.
“It soon transpired that 15 minutes was not enough to get the job done; firstly because the garden is huge and the cats are in different areas, but also because during feeding time the feeders were being surrounded by peacocks, ducks, pigeons and other birds, who seemed desperate for food and almost attacking the feeder,” she wrote.
“This was immediately highlighted to ELC management but our concerns were dismissed as pathetic. We were told over and over again that the birds were being fed enough and appropriately.”
“A few days later, and again after many interventions by different activists and authorities the cat feeder’s time was extended to one hour per day.”
“Although this was much better than the initial 15 minutes, one feed a day was still considered an unnecessary hardship on the cats who were used to being fed twice a day.”
Following the intervention of the Director of Animal Welfare and the Commissioner for Animal Rights, the ELC granted cat feeders a second hour to feed the cats.
The Office of President George Vella, whose presidential palace is right next to San Anton, responded to the reports by stating it is the Tourism Ministry and the ELC which is responsible for the garden’s upkeep.