Spring hunting of birds passing over Malta is a centuries old tradition, that was supposed to be ended with the referendum held last week. That obviously did upset hunters, as did any other limitation of hunting and hunting seasons before. The referendum ended with 50,44% saying YES to the spring hunting season, so it will stay, at least until the next referendum. Here’s my opinion about the topic.
- This tradition started when these birds lived in millions across Europe, and Malta had a population no more than 10-20% of today’s population. In the 21st century, the breeding places of these birds are but gone, and the much smaller numbers of birds are hunted by a far greater number of hunters.
- Hunters argue, that in Europe more of these birds are shot. That’s only partially true, as in Europe there are other species as well, there’s more diversity among the birds hunted. I think the damage done to these birds in Europe is much less concentrated as in Malta, where great flocks of birds and hunters are in a very small place. And let’s not forget: nowhere else in Europe is hunting in spring, that means before these birds are breeding, legal.
- Maltese hunters have always acted as if the EU or other organizations made spring hunting (or hunting in general) difficult or impossible. Let’s face it: the nowadays almost non-existing population of these birds makes hunting impossible, the EU and organizations just want to stop hunters (shooting under the protection of quotas) from killing the last examples of these species.
About the referendum
- I feel hunters acted after the results as if a majority of Malta supported hunting. 50,44% is not absolute majority, it’s not even a definitive majority.
- I find that a referendum of that importance would have required political parties and especially leaders to keep their opinion to themselves. In this case the leaders of both PL and PN declared they were in favor of hunting, influencing I suppose a lot of voters. That was a very uneven ground for SHout.
- I find a referendum in general a problem, because Maltese people are voting on how they will use resources which don’t belong to them (alone). It’s a little bit like me using electricity by connecting my house to the high voltage electricity transmission line passing over my garden.
- Hunting goes on in spring, but in return I’d like to see hunters make actual efforts to make the situation better than it is today.
- Respect the laws! Malta has good laws to control hunting and to punish the offenders (that’s the only reason spring hunting was allowed at all by the EU), but my impression is the laws are often violated and not always enforced properly. Government had to close several hunting seasons earlier because of the (too) many offenses.
- Respect what you kill! A mandatory education on ornithology and endangered species would make a big difference – I think many hunters just kill protected birds because they have no idea what they are. Of course a stork can not be mistaken for a turtle dove – that is a deliberate kill.
- Respect your fellow people! Hunters sometimes don’t act like reasonable and trustworthy people. Incidents because of hunters’ discontent included damaging and partial destruction of a world heritage site (Mnajdra, 2001), damaging Malta’s forest recreation efforts (Foresta 2000 site, 2007), missing flamingos and poisoned pools in the Għadira natural reserve (2015 and 2007 respectively) or even shooting BirdLife Malta members (f.e. Ray Vella, activist at Foresta 2000 shot in the face twice). We may say these are not hunters in general, but still, they do this in the name of hunting, and hunters keep them in their company.
Only 4 days after the referendum a cuckoo was shot in Manikata. I keep waiting for NO to win in the next referendum….