What is the Prime Min­is­ter wait­ing for?

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

With the killing of 31 pro­tected species of birds so far this au­tumn, one re­ally must ask what the Prime Min­is­ter is wait­ing for to, at the very least, sus­pend the au­tumn hunt­ing sea­son un­til the main mi­gra­tion sea­son for pro­tected birds has passed us by.

31 pro­tected birds have been shot dead and many more have been in­jured by hun­ters. Given the sheer num­ber of il­le­gal­i­ties tak­ing place, the is­sue has now su­per­seded the mere hunt­ing con­tro­versy and has be­come an is­sue of ba­sic law and order.

It is high time that the govern­ment pulls the plug on this year’s au­tumn hunt­ing sea­son. The self-reg­u­la­tion that the hunter’s lob­bies have spo­ken of in such lofty terms has ev­i­dently failed mis­er­ably.

The sit­u­a­tion is now be­yond ridicu­lous: the govern­ment must take im­me­di­ate ac­tion and ap­ply a zero tol­er­ance pol­icy to il­le­gal hunt­ing. As the death toll con­tin­ues to rise, the govern­ment’s en­vi­ron­men­tal rat­ing will con­tinue to plum­met with equal speed.

This fact will be driven home fur­ther to­day by BirdLife Malta, which is due to brief the press this af­ter­noon on the toll that this sea­son’s hunt­ing sea­son has taken on bird species that are pro­tected for a very good rea­son.

The fact that it is, in re­al­ity, a few bad ap­ples within the hunt­ing com­mu­nity that are caus­ing the prob­lem is ir­rel­e­vant. It is only when each and ev­ery hunter is well aware that their ac­tions will have a last­ing ef­fect on their fel­low hun­ters, and the reper­cus­sions that could come with that, that they will find it within them­selves to rec­tify their ways. On the other hand, the govern­ment was

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re­cently more than ready to back a call from hun­ters’ lob­bies to ap­ply a mora­to­rium on spring hunt­ing, so as to re-en­force their ar­gu­ment that Malta’s hunt­ing prac­tices have noth­ing to do with the de­cline in global num­bers of tur­tle­doves.

Last year Malta had in­sisted on open­ing the spring hunt­ing sea­son and al­low for the hunt­ing of 5,000 tur­tle­doves, de­spite calls from the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture (IUCN), which had placed the species on its red list, and the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, which had warned at the time that Malta would have to jus­tify its de­ci­sion.

But when the coun­try’s hunt­ing lob­bies this year pro­posed a mora­to­rium on the spring hunt­ing of the tur­tle­dove – to sup­pos­edly prove that Malta’s hun­ters are not re­spon­si­ble for the species de­cline in num­bers – the govern­ment backed that call.

This move ap­pears to have been mo­ti­vated by one over­rid­ing con­cern: to avoid the per­ma­nent clo­sure of the spring hunt­ing sea­son.

This sug­gests yet an­other close col­lab­o­ra­tion between the coun­try’s main hunt­ing lobby after the govern­ment re­ceived word that the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is to open yet an­other round of in­fringe­ment pro­ceed­ings against Malta over the du­bi­ous prac­tice. Such a move threat­ens to land Malta back at the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice, where a rul­ing against Malta, which ap­pears all the more likely given the sta­tus of the tur­tle­dove, would fi­nally close the spring hunt­ing sea­son once and for all.

But more re­cent calls for the au­tumn hunt­ing sea­son to be sus­pended in light of mass il­le­gal­i­ties have fallen on deaf govern­ment ears.

This news­pa­per has re­cently taken the chair­man of the Or­nis com­mit­tee to task and asked him whether he feels the sea­son ought to be sus­pended, and the pre­dictable an­swer was a re­sound­ing ‘no com­ment’. We had gone to the Or­nis chair­man be­cause the govern­ment had pre­dictably placed the mat­ter on his desk, but the de­ci­sion to put an end to this au­tumn’s sea­son ap­pears to have fallen vic­tim to the pass the buck back and forth game that we in the me­dia are so well ac­cus­tomed to.

The Prime Min­is­ter has ev­ery right to call an end to the sea­son, as he did two springs back when a bird was shot dead right over a school play­ground.

What will it take for him to close this au­tumn’s sea­son?

The govern­ment must, once and for all, give no quar­ter to these bla­tant law­break­ers and ap­ply a zero tol­er­ance pol­icy to all forms of il­le­gal hunt­ing. After all, its cred­i­bil­ity is on the line in more se­ri­ous terms than merely fac­ing an­other slap on the wrist or puni­tive fines from the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice – il­le­gal hunt­ing is crim­i­nal and in­di­vid­u­als can­not be al­lowed to run ram­pant and flout the law of the land with im­punity.

If the govern­ment is to prove its met­tle, it should im­me­di­ately move to close the cur­rent au­tumn sea­son, or at least sus­pend it un­til the mi­gra­tion of pro­tected birds con­cludes, in the face of the il­le­gal­i­ties that ap­pear to be tak­ing place on a near daily ba­sis.

But, for some rea­son, the govern­ment ap­pears to have no in­cli­na­tion what­so­ever to do so.

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