Spring hunting is wrong for more than one reason

To allow hunters out with guns on public land during a pandemic that is forcing people to have their only few moments of relaxation out in nature is unthoughtful and unfair

BirdLife Malta remains shocked at how the Maltese Government has opted to ignore all reason and remain heard-headed to derogate once again from the European Union’s Birds Directive and allow hunters to kill birds during this spring.

The conservation value on which the EU Birds Directive does not allow hunting in spring remains the main issue against such a practice. Birds that are returning to their breeding grounds during spring should never be hunted. It is unsustainable to kill those birds that have been naturally selected as the strongest and fittest after migrating to Africa, wintered there and are crossing once again the desert and the sea to eventually reach their breeding grounds.

The next controversial issue, also noted by the European Commission, is that while Malta supposedly derogates for the Common Quail (Summiena), it allows a season during the peak migration of the protected and vulnerable European Turtle-dove (Gamiema). This smokescreen is too absurd to be left unchallenged and the European Commission has already initiated infringement proceedings against Malta on this issue and BirdLife Malta urges it to push forward to stop this absurdity once and for all.

The justification to open this year’s spring hunting season is also legally challenged, both locally and at a European level, since the Government does not have valid data which shows that hunting in autumn was not a satisfactory alternative. The Government is only allowed to open a spring hunting season if it can prove this and hence every year it asks the hunters to report their catches. However, during autumn 2020 only 2.79% of the 10,600 licensed hunters participated in the Carnet de Chasse. This was the basis of a judicial protest filed in Court by BirdLife Malta against the Government.  It is another absurdity that the Government wants the European Commission and the general public to believe that less than 300 hunters caught at least a single bird out of over 40 huntable species in five whole months!

Two different issues in this year’s spring hunting season compared to previous years are the substantial increase of registered hunters that have now surpassed 8,200 and the quota of quails permissible to hunt which has more than halved from 5,000 in previous years to 2,400 this year. The reason for this is because the Common Quail is also decreasing in numbers. It is sad to see how while a bird struggles in its survival rate, Malta allows hunters to kill it a few weeks before it breeds. This is illogical, immoral and unethical and definitely unsustainable.

Finally another reason that one needs to consider in terms of the validity, or not, of such a hunting season is the social aspect of it. To allow hunters out with guns on public land during a pandemic that is forcing people to have their only few moments of relaxation out in nature is unthoughtful and unfair.

To add insult to injury, with the amount of money that such a hunting season will cost our country, (in police officers, administration and possible eventual legal costs), is outrageous. While our economy is having its major hit in the past ten years, and we have yet to see the light on the other side of the tunnel, spending any amount for the pleasure of 8,000 individuals to kill birds and disturb the peace of the rest of society is nothing short of being anti-social and short sighted.

We urge those that share this sentiment to join BirdLife Malta and other eNGOs to push for better decision-making in favor of Malta’s natural beauty and to bring our country truly in line with the European Green Deal. We urge the Government to look beyond its political desire of votecatching to the detriment of natural resources and hence the common good. Finally we urge the European Union to step in to protect our resources since the Maltese government is failing to see the sign of times.