Bird Hunting
EDITORIAL | Sunday, 02 September 2007

How not to kowtow to the hunting lobby

Hunting in Malta remains a traditionally contentious issue. Yet the decision by the Environment Minister George Pullicino to review hunting times and dates in autumn betray a better understanding of the problem.
Minister Pullicino correctly banned hunting in the afternoon from the 15 to the 30 September, this coinciding with the migration of birds of prey from Sicily to Malta. It is the time hunters flock to the hills in Malta and Gozo to gun down eagles, hawks and falcons. For years the police have found it next to impossible to guard every corner of the Maltese countryside.
Most of the birds of prey are on the list of threatened species. This is usually the case for animals which are found on the top of the food chain. For years Maltese hunters have shot these magnificent birds as trophies to be stuffed. The activity is illegal but the hunters continue to argue that it is only a small minority who break the law.
The facts prove otherwise. Hunters in their vast majority would shoot birds of prey because they argue that others will shoot them. In today’s issue we carry a feature of how birds have started to breed in Malta. It is a result of the moratorium on hunting. Malta should not be any different to any of the Mediterranean islands. Other islands such as Pantelleria, Linosa, Lampedusa and many others are home to a variety of birds. These islands do not have the problem of hunting and trapping.
The hunters spearheaded by the FKNK lobby argue that they have a right to shoot birds and trap. But the arguments they use have little logic. The only consideration that has any bearing in their arguments is the pressure they wield in the political sense. They have over and over again threatened to use the vote to impose their archaic traditions.
The decision to stop hunting from 3pm onwards for 15 days is not only a welcome move: it is a courageous move that should be applauded by all those who understand the need to upgrade our conservation measures.
Despite the efforts and rhetoric, daily reports show that protected birds are still shot. The latest include birds such as the globally threatened Eleonora’s Falcon, an elegant bird of prey which breeds on secluded Mediterranean islands and visits Malta and Gozo in August and September.
The 3pm moratorium must be supported by determined police action, and exemplified by zero tolerance for hunting abuses.
Without doubt, the hunters will flippantly argue that the minister is in cahoots with BirdLife. It is an irrelevant and facile argument – but also one way of saying that the minister happens to be doing the right thing.
The government has a commitment and obligation to ensure that the standards of environmental protection are met. It has no obligation to facilitate the destruction of the environment even if this takes place under the guise of tradition. If the tradition to kill protected birds was acceptable years ago, then today it isn’t.
For years political parties have kowtowed to the hunters and trappers. It is time they look at the bigger picture and the overwhelming desire to protect nature and enjoy it.

Quote of the week:

“We will be acting like the Nationalists"
– Alfred Sant speaking to The Times last Wednesday

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