[WATCH] ‘Illegal hunting is happening – it can’t be denied’

BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham says Malta should not be boycotted by English tourists, but enjoyed as a birding location.

Chris Packham, photographed by Ray Attard
Chris Packham, photographed by Ray Attard

Video by Ray Attard


As the controversy on spring hunting in Malta gathers pace, Malta Today met up with BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham, who is here in Malta to witness first-hand the spring hunting season. 

“I’ve been washing blood off my hands all week,” he tells me as I inquire as to the extent of the situation he found in Malta. He lists a series of birds of prey he has found dead, all birds that cannot be hunted. "Illegal hunting is happening. It cannot be denied."

Last week, this newspaper carried out an interview with the League against Cruel Sports, in which the group’s CEO Joe Duckworth and TV personality Bill Oddie expressed their dismay at the hunting situation in Malta.

Whilst stressing that his visit to Malta was merely to ‘support’ the Maltese who wanted an end to spring hunting, Packham was no less sympathetic in his assessment.

“I thought it would be good to come out and look at the issue first-hand rather than read what you see,” he tells me. “Mission number two, and this is even more important, was to come out and show our very firm support for the vast majority of Maltese people who oppose spring hunting and are very upset about the illegal hunting which goes on here.”

Packham describes Malta as “sort of a bird hell” and expresses his shock at the widespread nature of hunting in the country. “It’s such a contrast to the UK where we go to extraordinary lengths to protect our birds.”

“I come to Malta and I meet people and they’re hospitable and they’re friendly. They’re clearly a part of the European community and yet the way they’re treating their birds is so different than the rest of us do.”

He commends the campaign for a referendum to “change governance”, and strongly believes that most Maltese are against spring hunting.

However, the perpetual argument used by many on the other side of the fence is that hunting is a local tradition. Foreigners such as Packham, they claim, would be better off steering clear of the debate.

Packham, though, makes it clear to me that his intention is not to point fingers at the Maltese, conceding that Britain had its own problems. “I haven’t come here as an Englishman to point my finger at the Maltese and say you can’t do this or you can’t do that. I’ve come here to support the Maltese... there is no English arrogance.”

He goes on to say that the hunting of birds should not be linked or restricted to geography.

“The birds have no boundaries. We are the ones that have drawn the line on the map here. These birds spend their winter in Africa, they fly over Malta and some of them fly to the UK. They’re not British birds, they’re not Maltese birds, they’re not African birds. They belong to all of us,” he says.