‘The Greater Flamingo Massacre’… again

So not only did government fling that dreaded ‘door’ wide open, in the end; but it did so – deliberately – to create the opportunity for precisely such a massacre to happen again; and again; and again, and again…

Ever get the impression that you’re stuck in some kind of real-life, never-ending ‘horror movie franchise’?

Something like ‘Scream’; or ‘Saw’; or ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’… where it doesn’t really matter what form the ‘horror’ itself actually takes – it could be zombies; mutants; axe-wielding-psychopaths; anything, really – or even ‘how good the films are, compared to the originals’….

Because… um… what you’re watching still remains EXACTLY THE SAME MOVIE as every other that ever came before it (in all but the most superficial of details).

Take Wes Craven’s 1992 masterpiece ‘Scream’, for instance: which not only spawned at least three direct sequels of its own… but also single-handedly revived the entire 1970s ‘Slasher’ genre; while inspiring dozens of copycat slashers, with names like: ‘Scary Movie’; ‘Scarier Movie’; ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’; ‘I STILL Know What You Did Last Summer’; and – last but not least - ‘I Even Know, From Now, What Horror-Reboot You Are Going To Be Watching, In The Summer of 2033’…

Because that’s the thing with all these movie franchises, you know. After a while they start getting a little... predictable.

Ah, but that brings me to yet another reason why Wes Craven’s ‘Scream’ is such a good place to start. It’s not just a solid, classic ‘slasher-movie’ in its own right; it’s also a ‘slasher-movie’ ABOUT ‘slasher-movies’… and as such, it even takes the trouble of explaining all the classic tropes of that particular genre.

Naturally, I won’t ruin the film by repeating those explanations here (except to say that: if you’ve ever wondered why it is, exactly, that “the guy who says ‘I’ll be right back’, is never actually seen again”… or why “the survival chances of any female character, in any slasher-movie, are always going to be 100% inversely-proportional, to the cup-size of her bra”…  Well, what can I say? Look no further: ‘Scream’ might just be the movie for you.)

But – SPOILER AERT! – I cannot come this far, without also revealing the ultimate conclusion of all this meta-movie introspection. In ‘Scream’, it can be slashed down to a single line of dialogue (spoken immediately after the overly-cliché ‘unmasking’ scene):

‘Movies don’t create psychos… they make them more creative!’

And that, in a nutshell, explains why the movie industry keeps getting away with re-rehashing the same old plot-devices, over and over again… without anyone ever noticing, or complaining too loudly.

After all, there are always going to be ‘creative’ ways, to make those devices appear more original than they actually are. And we can always be ‘more creative’, when it comes to ensuring that the ‘same old blood and gore’ just keeps flowing, endlessly, from one sequel to the next…

Which of course, brings us to the ‘real-life, never-ending horror-movie franchise’, that we all seem to be reliving which each passing year.

Now: I am fully aware that my analogy is likely to (ahem) ‘ruffle a few feathers’, among hunters who – not unreasonably – object to being actively compared with chainsaw-wielding psychos like ‘Leatherface’, ‘Freddie Krueger’, and so on and so forth… so let’s get a few disclaimers out of the way first.

I am the first to admit that news items associated with ‘illegal hunting’, in this country – like, for instance: ‘Flock of 40 rare Black Kites, gunned out the sky’… or; ‘Greater Flamingo shot, on first day of Autumn hunting season’ (both published within two weeks of each other) - cannot really be compared with the plot-line of a typical Wes Craven slasher-movie.

For even if there is a fair amount of ‘blood and gore’ involved - and it is by no means exaggerated to use words like ‘massacre’, in this context (certainly, our annual avian body-count is much, MUCH higher, than in any single ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ sequel) – we are, at the end of the day, still talking about ‘birds’, here… not ‘people’.

And apart from the obvious implications – i.e., that humans are inevitably going to attach more value to their own lives, than to those of birds; and that, for much the same reason, ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ would hardly be described as a ‘horror-classic’, today… had Leatherface limited his chain-saw massacring activities only to ‘Greater Flamingos’, instead of people…    

… aside from all that, there is also the issue of ‘motive’. Naturally, I won’t digress into a psychological evaluation of people (real or imaginary) who DO fall into the ‘psycho-killer’ category… otherwise, we’d be here all day… but I think it’s perfectly safe to assume that these two impulses – regardless of the fact that they both involve ‘killing’, to some degree – are not merely ‘different’; but ‘totally incomparable’.

So just in case anyone ran with away with the idea that I’m about to portray the hunters themselves – yes, even the ones responsible for the aforementioned ‘massacres’ – as a bunch of ‘mindless, criminal psychopaths’… no, that’s not my intention at all.

If there is any level, at which Malta’s illegal hunting situation can legitimately be compared to a ‘real-life, never-ending horror-movie franchise’…  it is not because the ‘horror’ itself is remotely comparable – in fact, I said so right at the beginning: ‘It could be zombies; psychos; anything, really…’ – but because it’s still just ‘the same old plot device’, thrown back at us in an endlessly repeating loop…

… and not only does the ‘blood and gore’ just keep senselessly flowing, season after season; but – just like the case with many real horror-movie franchises – the sequels only ever seem to keep getting worse… and worse… and WORSE.

Those headlines I mentioned earlier, for instance: well, this is another one from almost exactly 11 months ago, to the day: ‘Protected Osprey shot, days after four flamingos killed’ (October 6, 2021).

See what I mean? In last year’s iteration of our homegrown horror-movie… it was: ‘One [bird of prey] shot, after four flamingos [which are technically ‘waders’] killed.’

But fast forward to the opening day of this year’s Autumn hunting season… and suddenly, it’s: ‘One [wader] shot… a couple of weeks after a flock of 40 (FORTY!!) rare, protected birds of prey were likewise massacred, over a couple of days’…

Not only does that adequately side-step the traditional ‘cliché’ pitfall, by varying the (otherwise predictable) order in which your protagonists actually get killed, in the sequel… but the ‘massacres’ themselves can be seen to have grown in scale, too… from one [hunting] season, to the next.

And not only has there been an apparent escalation in the sheer number of birds being illegally targeted, in each individual case; but, much more distressingly… there has been an alarming increase in the sheer frequency of such ‘incidents’, too.

Last year, for instance, we had to wait until around the first week of October, for a case that could realistically be described as a ‘massacre’ (as opposed to ‘any randomly-targeted protected species’… which, then as now, tends to happen from Day One of any hunting season, anyway).

The first hunting atrocity of Autumn 2022, on the other hand– which also happened to involve by far the highest avian body-count in recent years (and of one of Malta’s more endangered visitors, too: 40 Black Kites… all gunned down, in the space of two days) -  actually occurred two whole weeks BEFORE the season even opened.

And I need hardly add that this is where Malta’s hunting situation starts to truly resemble a horror-movie: in fact, you can even pin it down to one of the most instantly-recognisable tropes of the entire genre….


For make no mistake, folks: just like classic horror-movies always ‘inform’ their audiences, that ‘something horrible’ is about to happen to all those innocent victims in the foreground – usually, through a combination of creepy sound-effects, ominous camera-movements, and so on and so forth – well, it was just as easy to predict the ‘bloodbath’ with which this year’s Autumn hunting season began.

And in fact, it WAS predicted: among others, by BirdLife Malta… which issued a statement, on August 24, demanding that government postpone the autumn hunting season until the 15 October: “to avoid the shooting of protected birds of prey that normally migrate in September.”

This statement even specified that: “if the Prime Minister could not provide assurances that illegal hunting would be fought with strict enforcement and better laws, then hunting seasons had no place in Malta”; and also, that “the least Abela could do was to suspend the opening of the hunting season till after 15 October, to safeguard the migration of protected species like raptors and herons.”

But… well, I’m assuming you’ve all watched enough horror-movies, to work out how this one was all along destined to end.

Despite all those ‘creepy sound effects’, and all those passionate pleas to ‘not to open that door’… Government simply disregarded all warnings, and all scientific advice; it ignored all the available evidence, that Malta lacks the law-enforcement capability to control even a fraction of the illegal hunting that takes place, all over the island, during every hunting season (not to mention both before, and afterwards)…

… and it even revised the hunting and trapping regulations, last March, to (among other things): remove an existing moratorium on Turtle Dove; lower the penalties for killing certain protected species, and; issue a blanket amnesty, for owners of illegal taxidermy collections….

So not only did government fling that dreaded ‘door’ wide open, in the end; but it did so – deliberately – to create the opportunity for precisely such a massacre to happen again; and again; and again, and again….

Honestly, though… how ‘scary’ is that?