The hunt­ing lobby’s never-end­ing au­dac­ity

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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.

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