Lino Farrugia, secretary general of the hunters’ and trappers’ federation (FKNK), has launched a furious tirade aimed specifically at hotelier and former MHRA president Winston Zahra Jr, after the latter lent his face and name to a BirdLife Malta campaign against spring hunting.
Zahra is one of 13 local personalities – including entertainer Gianni Zammit, actors Alan Montanaro and Ray Calleja, TV presenter Moira Delia, journalist Sarah Puntan-Galea, musician Renzo Spiteri and University lecturer Edward Mallia – who now appear on billboards and newspapers adverts asking both Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Opposition leader Alfred Sant to “stop illegal hunting now”.
Speaking at the campaign launch last Saturday, BirdLife president Joseph Mangion said: “It’s fantastic to see that different figures from all walks of life decided to join us in this campaign, calling on our leaders to save us from the embarrassment of a forthcoming court ruling by the European Commission and the European Court of Justice on spring hunting.”
But the campaign has elicited scornful derision from the FKNK, which lambasted the individual participants as “an entertainer, an artist, an actor, and a percussionist, under the baton of the bird fanatics.”
“So it seems that Winston J. Zahra has succumbed to the entreaties of the salaried Turk and his Maltese lackeys, and prefers to kowtow to them rather than have the European Court of Justice have its say,” wrote Farrugia in a press release issued yesterday… “the salaried Turk” being a somewhat xenophobic reference to BirdlIfe Malta’s Turkish executive director, Tolga Temuge.
The EU also comes under fire in Farrugia’s outburst: “Contrary to what some lunatics in Brussels may think, the Maltese have hunted in spring since time immemorial without affecting Europe’s biodiversity,” the press release continues. “As for tourism, Mr Zahra, a hotelier, ought to know that it is bad service, bad food, exorbitant prices, grumpy hotel staff, timeshare louts (sic), and airline monopolies that undermine tourism.”
Pointing out that Maltese tourism has just experienced its most lucrative season in years, the FKNK derides the sales and marketing director of the Island Hotels Group as someone who “seems to be living in cloud-cuckoo-land.”
“Now he and others, like goats, have been roped in and dressed up in T-shirts appealing to Drs Gonzi and Sant to stop the very same socio-cultural tradition that is legal practice, accepted and acquiesced to by the European Union in pre-accession negotiations.”
The epithet “goats” in this context assumes a particular relevance, as members of Birdlife Malta (formerly known as the Malta Ornithological Society, or “MOS” for short) have for decades been referred to by hunters as “moghoz” (goats) – a pun on the society’s previous acronym.
Contacted by MaltaToday, Winston Zahra simply brushed aside Lino Farrugia’s onslaught as a case of schoolyard name-calling. “A press release written as childishly as that doesn’t even deserve to be published,” he said, reserving a parting shot of his own for the FKNK secretary: “I led the consultative group to government that was responsible for the turnaround in tourism in 2007, so I do not think that Lino is anywhere near correct in his remarks.”