The hunting lobby’s never-ending audacity
How dare the government give rural areas to children instead of hunters? This was the gist of the reaction of the country’s main hunting lobby yesterday to the news that the government has signed a Heads of Agreement with BirdLife Malta, paving the way for Salini to be transferred to BirdLife.
Following the agreement, BirdLife will become responsible for the management of what will be known as the Salina Reserve – the organisation’s largest land management project and the country’s largest nature reserve.
The FKNK, however, was very quick to express its outrage over the fact that while the country’s total number of hunters and trappers exceeds 15,000 adults, BirdLife counts “a maximum of 900 persons, many of whom are children”.
The FKNK also lamented that the “few remaining rural areas” were full of buffer zones, sanctuaries, reserves, public gardens and beaches where hunting is not allowed – including the Ghadira and Simar sanctuaries, Buskett, the Mellieha cliffs, the Xrobb l-Għaġin park, the Wied Ghollieqa reserve, parts of Għajn Tuffieha and Ramla Bay in Gozo, parts of Marsaxlokk and the Majjistral Park.
Again, how dare the government safeguard nature reserves, beaches and countryside for children and families, rather than hand it over to hunters for their blood sport? The FKNK also complained that land was being handed over to BirdLife for use as nature reserves where hunting is not allowed.
So we have a population of over 400,000 Maltese
A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
citizens and the FKNK is demanding that land be given for hunting by 15,000 of those citizens, and effectively banning the remaining 385,000 from that land during the short spring hunting season and the long autumn hunting season.
The gall of these people is simply incredible and beggars belief in more ways than one.
At this juncture, one must seriously ask: Haven’t the FKNK’s members had it good enough for long enough? Both political parties have, over the years, bent over backwards to accommodate hunters’ demands.
In the recent referendum seeking to abolish the appalling practice of spring hunting, both main political parties backed the season’s retention. Making matters even worse, this government will, on 20 October, open the finch trapping season even though the European Commission has hauled the country before the European Court of Justice over the practice.
Moreover, the illegal killing of dozens of protected birds in the current autumn hunting season alone demands the suspension of the season until the main migration of protected species finishes, but calls to suspend the season have fallen on seemingly deaf government ears.
Yesterday’s agreement with BirdLife, which we must point out is not only an ornithological organisation but also a conservationist organisation, was a major step in the right direction.
But it still does not detract from the fact that the government has not yet addressed the elephant in the room this autumn season: the rampant continuation of illegal hunting.
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. But nevertheless this is what they are being allowed to do.
When the Prime Minister had abruptly closed the spring hunting season in 2015 after a bird was shot down over a school in Vittoriosa and fell in the midst of children during their school break, he was applauded. But just this week, the shooting near the same school has been going on daily in full force, well within the 200 metre distance limit yet no action has been taken.
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.
It bears reminding that the FKNK stands for the ‘Federation of Hunters, Trappers and Conservationists’. The lobby has certainly lived up to the former two designations but as for the third, we are not quite so sure. It is high time that it does so.