Letters: 8 March 2015

Don't stay at home: use your vote!

The hunting lobby has engaged in a scaremongering campaign, using imagined non-existent threats to all and every other hobby and pastime they can think of to frighten people into voting ‘yes’ in the coming referendum for fear we will stop them collecting stamps or making model planes. What can one say to that except they greatly underestimate the intelligence of the Maltese public.

However, since FKNK gas attempted to divert attention from the real issue, let me refocus on it by informing that same public of a few facts, which in addition to the moral aspect of destroying our planet’s already diminishing wildlife, are direct consequences to every one of us as a result of the prolific scale of hunting in Malta, bearing in mind the 55,962 shotguns registered with the police in Malta.

Having experienced 20 years of legal and illegal hunting, seven days a week for most of the year, I decided one morning – having been ‘shot’ awake again by the dawn/pre-dawn crack and volley of shotguns (and further sleep impossible) – to lie there in bed and count the number of shots fired that intruded into my bedroom (and every room of my house).

It was a Monday morning and I decided to do this for a whole week, Monday to Monday, counting and recording the date, time the first shot woke me up, and how many shots were fired in exactly one hour. Some were quite difficult to count as many were fired by more than one hunter and frequent volleys often merged. In those cases I took into account only the definite individual shots I could distinguish.  Below is the result:

Monday, 27 October 2014    5.56am – 6.56am    294 shots

Tuesday, 28 October 2014    6.07am - 7.07am    161 shots

Wednesday, 29 October 2014    5.54am – 6.54am    159 shots

Thursday, 30 October 2014    6.03am – 7.03am    144 shots

Friday, 31 October 2014    6.05am – 7.05am        54 shots

Saturday, 1 November 2014    6.04am – 7.04am    129 shots

Sunday, 2 November 2014    6.04am – 7.04am     592 shots (several 4-5 shot repeats)

Monday, 3 November 2014    5.58am – 6.58am    261 shots (several 4-5 shot repeats)

The above amounts to 1,794 shots fired in just eight hours in the Garnaw Valley and upper Addolorata area, most of which is cultivated land. With an average of 217 to 358 pellets (depending on size or mix) and an average weight of 35 grams of lead per cartridge, this is a considerable amount of lead, just in this one period and location alone.  

I am not an extremist, merely one who does not consider oneself ‘unfortunate’ not to enjoy killing defenceless creatures. At 74, I have no personal ambition other than to live in peace in my own home and not have that peace shattered by a multitude of ‘12 bore alarm clocks’ drowning out nature’s own dawn chorus every morning, in an orgy of slaughter.

I am not a member of that ‘unscrupulous (unspecified) handful from minority groups’ but I am a proud member of the 41,494 legally specified, entirely scrupulous group by virtue of what assistance I could render.

If you do not vote at all, it will mean in effect a ‘yes’ – we want to retain spring hunting because if a 51% turnout is not achieved, then spring hunting is here to stay – even if there are more ‘No’ votes than ‘Yes’ among the 50% or less who do vote. If this happens then the FKNK, the hunters, the trappers and the government will claim that they have your mandate (permission) for spring hunting to continue and back we’ll go to the good old days of ‘everything goes’ and backroom election deals.

Use your vote! If not for yourself and your children – remember the lead poisoning our food and water – then for the hundreds of thousands of birds you will save from slaughter this year and in the future.

Clifford John Williams, Santa Lucia

Governments should stop bee imports

The letter of Carmelo Galea in MaltaToday on Sunday, 8 February, dealt at great length with the behaviour of Ray Sciberras, following the imported bees to their Gozo destination.  I ask why all this fuss?  Was he committing any crime?  His behaviour only emphasises the great worry such a project is generating locally among beekeepers and environmentalists. Such worry is due to:

1.    If as some say, the final number of hives may reach thousands, our indigenous, hard working bee, Apis Mellifera Ruttneri, may face extinction through DNA dilution;

2.    If beekeepers, conscious of this latest menace, decide to gear some of the hives to produce drones, (male bees), such hives will not produce any honey, leading to a reduction in genuine Maltese honey on the market, causing its price to soar;

3.    Commercial bee breeders do not rely on the limited natural flora to build up the huge bee population in the hives needed for queen bee rearing. Instead they feed their hives artificially with syrup which the bees may store as ‘honey’. If such so called ‘honey’ finds itself on the market, consumers, quite rightly, will start mistrusting all honey originating in Gozo;

4.    Lastly, experience has shown that crossbreeding between A M Ruttneri drones with the docile Italian bee, A M Ligustica,  produces a hybrid with an aggressive behaviour. The same may happen with French queen bees. Foreign recipients of such fertilised queen bees with an aggressive progeny will have second thoughts in further dealings with Melita Bees.

The only positive statement was that Melita Bees does not intend to produce bee nuclei for export. But once the project becomes established will Melita Bees guarantee that the policy will not be revised?  Will the Gozo enterprise guarantee that fully established hives in the project will never be fed sugar syrup, or if fed, such ‘honey’ will never, inadvertently, appear on the market? 

However the primary concern for the Maltese beekeepers will always be the danger our indigenous bee will be facing by the project whose primary bee stock is of foreign origin.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Rights has dismissed the beekeepers’ claims as unjustified.

Are they? Beekeepers think that the government should stop any further importation of foreign bees and beehives, in the national interest.

Michael A. Muscat, Via email

Mepa inforcement orders

You often hear people talk about the low incidence of enforcement orders issued by MEPA, even though a lot of illegal economic activity is taking place in garages in residential areas all over the island, to the annoyance of residents.

Some persons abuse openly while others work behind closed doors because they have been verbally warned, but no further action was taken! Why should neighbours suffer and have to report to MEPA when enforcement officers should be doing their duty?

Not everyone has the courage to come out in the open with their objection and when people do report, as a minimum, they get the cold shoulder from the other cowardly neighbours, but more often than not, they are hounded by these ‘cowboys’ who simply refuse to bow to the rule of law – as was recently revealed in a court case.  One also asks what the police are doing about it all.   Patrol cars pass by but don’t stop even though it is evident that illegal commercial work is taking place in residential areas. Who is finally going to stop these ‘cowboys’?

Owing to the small size of our country, dwellings have become smaller and walls have become thinner, so there definitely is no place in residential areas for these activities, whether part-time or not. Bullying doesn’t take place only in schools, it is also evidenced by people who would go to any lenghts to get what they want, whether legal or not.

It is the trend nowadays that many who own a garage, big or small, are tempted to provide a service from these premises. I am not referring to private tuition, nail parlours, art studios etc., even though  these should apply for permits.

But there are also the various carpenters, sprayers, mechanics etc – all that entails the use of machinery and tools which disturb others around them. It should not be the man in the street who reports these activities. And even when MEPA receives a report, they take their time to show up and thereafter, there is no follow-up action.

I suggest that enforcement officers are directed to carry out their duties with much more enthusiam and to clamp down on these abuses. Moreover, when police are patrolling and notice that a workshop has sprouted in a residential area, they should stop and ask for the trading licence, the VAT registration number, etc. Most neighbours will not give evidence even if they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, out of fear of being bullied, so it is law-enforcing officers who have to act.

Residential areas are no place for workshops. It is also unfair on those law-abiding skilled workers who have their workshops in industrial zones and who pay all their dues – their efforts are being nullified by these irresponsible persons who hold a full-time job and work after hours and on week-ends and during holidays.

I hope this letter also serves for people who are being coerced into signing a ‘no-objection’ to applications for permits with a false description of activities to be carried out, to pluck up courage and refuse outright.

M.J. Zammit, Birkirkara