“Hunting, including trapping (or the catching of wild birds by means of traditional clap-nets for the purpose of keeping the any caught birds alive in captivity), is allowed on about 160 Sq. Km. Of the Maltese islands and, with about 12,000 shooters and 4,000 trappers, the resulting density (some 80 sportsmen per square kilometer of huntable land) is considerable, but then Malta is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
Maltese hunters and trappers thus form an important part of the economic, social, cultural and political life of the islands, and any hunter/trapper thus expects to exercise his legal right to practice hunting and trapping in the traditional manner, so long as he is fully aware that his harvesting does not constitute any threat to any particular species.”
The above quote, taken from the website of the FKNK, Malta’s Federation for Hunting and Conservation, is a fair and valid point, and I can agree with much of the above, until that is, we reach the last line.
The federation itself admits that the hunting and trapping of birds is a right, but not if that right goes against the protection of any particular vulnerable migratory bird species, or any species that may become vulnerable in the future if such practices are allowed to continue.
Hunting on the Maltese Islands is a deeply-rooted tradition. Buskett woodland was created by the Knights specifically for hunting, but they also revered their aptitude for breeding falcons, so one cannot deny that hunters and trappers are not so very different than bird-keepers, pigeon-fanciers and bird-watchers. All are great lovers of the outdoors and of nature (both groups of people probably get out into the countryside more than the rest of us) and what they love has doubtless been passed down from grandfather to grandson, experiences shared many a time during a family or social gathering.
But the world has many barbaric traditions, many of which have thankfully been eradicated, at least in most parts of the world (if only the persecution of gays and the bullfight were next, to name two examples). And whilst hunting may have benefits in curbing population growth in certain species, the hunting of any rare, endangered or vulnerable species should be banned. In the same way that the world fights to protect the rhino, the elephant, and the tiger, these birds should be at least given a fighting chance. Malta should be a safe haven for these birds on their migration; a place relatively free from predators and competing species where they can raise and fledge their chicks before heading North or South.
One argument against saying ‘no’ is: why should Malta ban its hunting when Europe does not? The UK has succeeded in banning much of its fox hunting, and though game birds and deer may be hunted, there are of course restrictions in place. I believe that Malta should show its stance as an independent and progressive country that is able to stand up for its own rights and to make its own decisions, without needing Europe or the rest of the world to tell it what to do.
Regardless of how deeply any tradition runs in society, there should be limits. If the crafts of glass-blowing or lace-making were to be abolished, Malta would certainly lose a wonderful piece of its heritage. These are harmless traditions. But what is not harmless is the blemished reputation it has acquired due to to the sight of beautiful pallid harriers, egrets, flamingos and more falling from the sky in cold blood. In our society today, is it just to kill of any living thing, be it a pigeon or a bird of prey? We do not hunt for the economy or gastronomy, and this blood sport is even harming Malta’s prospects as an eco-tourism destination.
Why would you destroy the the life of any living species; in abundance or otherwise, merely to decorate a glass cabinet?
Killing is not a hobby. And that is why I will vote ‘No’ to spring hunting.