Letters: 5 April 2015

The Great Outdoors

Spring is a long awaited time of the year, because after a long dark winter everyone yearns for some good warm weather with plenty of light and warm sunshine. It is a time when all of nature awakens; with the countryside bursting with life. Blossoming colourful flowers, the fragrant smell of early buds, emerging bees and ladybirds and the occasional sighting of a migrating bird.

Sadly this period is very brief, before we’re greeted with our hot summer and everyone heads to the seaside to cool down.

With today’s fast changing technologies, a lot of youngsters are turning to virtual tools for their entertainment, little realising what they are missing out on. Lifestyle changes seem to be the latest buzz word although I suspect that not everyone promotes good health as completely natural and free of charge.

Fortunately, though, there are an ever increasing number of bikers, campers, ramblers, walkers, runners, birdwatchers and dog walkers who have discovered that the great outdoors give health and sanity to the whole being at a very affordable price.

This is very commendable to the well-being of our citizens. However, this week I was to learn that when these enthusiasts try to escape the humdrum of our busy roads and head to the country lanes they are regularly confronted by bristled hunters who have claimed our countryside and who do not want to be caught red handed in their illegalities.

They do not shoot only protected birds, they shoot warning shots to scare away the fainthearted. They get both verbally and physically abusive, and do not let anyone deny this. We have it on video, I have been hearing plenty of testimonials to confirm this and I have experienced it myself.

The latest testimonial was from Andrew Warrington who is the president of the Malta Rock Climbing Club. He showed us a video with a sign on a cliff face privatising the face and prohibiting climbing, he also showed us how expensive climbing anchors used to aid climbing were vandalised and rendered unusable and dangerous.

These climbing anchors were part financed by the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) who had recognised the potential of such a sport as a prospective sport venue for niche tourism. He went on to relate how a foreign climber had taken it upon himself to attach these anchors to several climbs only to be physically beaten by a hunter. The climber was so shaken that he packed and never returned.

Ironically last Tuesday we saw FKNK and the recently founded Malta Climbing Association signing an MOU that they will be seeking to resolve issues where their interests overlap and that they will be working together on conservation. I hope that this MOU will still be valid whether the Yes or No wins the referendum. Finally, I would like to enquire why we need an MOU to enjoy our countryside and how/why all other minority outdoor sport enthusiasts need permission from hunters to practise their sport. Hunting – the only blood “sport” that opposes conservation by killing breeding birds.

This arrogance sets my heart racing. No, hunting is not a sport of the minorities – it is blatant bullying by hooligans who are plentiful enough to hold to ransom our two major political parties. This is a democratic country and we deserve better. To put an end to this and liberalise our country, vote No to spring hunting, we all deserve to enjoy the countryside in spring. The sighting of migrating breeding birds should not be the privilege of the hunters. We should all be happily welcoming these heroes on their long journey home and shooting them – with a camera, not a gun.

Rita Brincat, Rabat

First spring hunting, later motorsports?

A referendum is a useful mechanism in a democracy in which civil society has the opportunity to express itself, one way or another, on a particular issue.

But the spring hunting referendum goes deeper than that. It addresses one of the basic human needs – security, recognition, identity – of a group of people, and seeks to deprive them from enjoying a legal activity.

Every person has multiple identities. A young woman may be a nurse, a mother, a sister, a daughter, and the wife of someone who does not like hunting, among others. A young man may be a lawyer, a father, a brother, a son, a husband, and a hunter, among others.

For hunters, banning spring hunting is equal to the non-satisfaction of their identity, and this can bring about negative reactions.

The anti-hunting group emphasises the “killing” of birds. The majority of them have not collected any signatures to stop the electrocution and bleeding to death of millions of chicken which people eat every week around the world. Some may even wear leather jackets and other accessories, apart from eating all kinds of animals.

The same anti-hunting group has exaggerated the lack of enjoyment of the countryside, when there is plenty of space to do such a thing. These have not collected signatures to stop the sprawling of buildings.

The spring hunting referendum should never have been allowed to take place. This is not a mechanism for democracy, but as James Madison argues, it is more like the “tyranny of the majority”. In a democracy, the majority finds a way of accommodating a minority, not deprive them of their identity. A way should have been found whereby hunters perform their activity within the limits of the law, without the need of voting for or against such an activity. 

There is a form of sport – motor sport – which is also based on an exception to the rule. Motor sport is meaningless if it is held within the regular speed limits indicated in the Motor Vehicles Regulations, 1994. Section 127 (2) of Legal Notice 128 of 1994, clearly states “Provided that the provisions of this regulation shall not apply to any motor vehicle participating in a sporting event held with the permission of the Commissioner of Police on a public road which is at the time closed to the public for the purpose of the holding of the said sporting event.”

Motor sport is a type of sport which one tends to love or hate. Those who do not like motor sport are invited to stay away from such activities, but they have no right to deprive those who love the sport from enjoying their sport. 

Some of the prime movers of the anti-hunting in spring campaign happen to have strong reservations on motor sport. This is not surprising when some of these same people also objected to the greenest of sport, namely a golf course!

Motor sport followers have been waiting for 50 years to have a decent place where they can practise their sport in safety. They may expect some resistance from another group of people who have no interest in the sport, if and when a serious proposal for a motor racing circuit is launched.

The spring hunting referendum is an eye-opener for motor sport followers, who also constitute a minority. If they wish to enjoy their sport, motor sport followers must not allow a group of people to have their say on the legal activity of another group of persons. 

The spring hunting referendum is not a mechanism of democracy. It is the “dictatorship of the majority”. Motor sport followers need to defend their own interests on 11 April by voting yes, because they could be next on the list of a group of persons collecting signatures!

Some have expressed concern on what might happen if the majority were to vote yes. It is better if the majority were to be concerned should the majority vote no.

Attacking the identity of a group of persons is a dangerous thing. Care should be taken that normal law-abiding citizens be not cornered into a state of desperation. Care should be given that we do not give birth to home-grown terrorism by voting no.

Alfred A. Farrugia, via email