I know it’s not particularly kosher to criticize a foreign country one doesn’t know a lot about, but I’m making an exception. In every guidebook and article I’ve read about Malta, one criticism always shows up: their rampant and mostly illegal spring bird hunt.
Though it has relatively few native birds, Malta is a stopping point for many species of migratory bird. According to my Lonely Planet, more than 3 million of them are killed or trapped every year. 3 million on islands that have a human population of 400,000. That’s incredibly repulsive to me.
I don’t really understand what the hunters do with the birds they kill and trap? Eat them? Stuff them? Nothing at all? I’m not opposed to sustainable hunting, particularly when the hunters make use of their quarry. Clearly this isn’t sustainable, and clearly it’s mostly (if not entirely) for sport.
I searched around, and couldn’t find any Maltese pro-hunting websites. I found one news article, which described a hunters’ protest getting out of hand. In Canada, most hunters that I’ve met are wilderness enthusiasts and pro-conservation (that’s what Ducks Unlimited is all about, I gather). Apparently that’s not the case on Malta?
I gather the Maltese authorities are disinterested (the hunters are a powerful lobby group) or unable to enfore existing laws. According to this Maltese blogger, the EU is running out of patience:
The House shares the concerns expressed in the report on the fact-finding mission, in particular in respect of the authorisation of spring hunting of resting migratory birds and trapping and illegal hunting of protected species, including in areas protected under Community law. MEPs condemn all types of illegal hunting in all Member States. The EP calls on the Maltese Government and the Commission to publish their full technical positions on the subject.
To me this seems roughly analogous to the ridiculous fox hunts that were recently banned in Great Britain–cruel sport hunts from a bygone era, weakly defended as ‘traditional’. For more information about Malta’s hunting problem, check out Bird Life Malta.
I’m sure some of my assumptions about this issue will prove incorrect–I’ll report back once I’ve lived there for a few months.