Chris Packham and team have done a great job in publicising events on Malta over the last 10 days. This was a self-funded project done for the love of birds. And what a great example it has been of the use of celebrity to promote a cause.
If you haven’t seen the videos from Malta then catch up with them here – I’ve watched them all more than once.
One of Chris’s messages is that we can all play our part in doing something for Malta’s birds – which, since most of them are migrants, are not ‘Malta’s’ birds any more than they are ‘ours’. The message that we can alll do our bit for nature conservation, is one that I have been promoting ever since leaving the RSPB (not that it is original or exclusive to me) and it’s one of the reasons behind this blog. We can all exert influence as consumers and voters to influence the way the world will be in future. Each of us has just a little influence, but together, if we get off our bums, then we have a lot. If you haven’t donated and written to your MEP or the Malta High Commission then please do so.
Here are a few thoughts – call them Maltese falcons of thought, if you like:
- the Maltese human population is c400,000 (somewhere between Teesside and Cardiff in UK terms) living on a small island (316km2 – about the same as Milton Keynes or Peterborough), but because they live on a small island in the Mediterranean, on birds’ migration routes, then they can have a disproportionately large impact on migrant birds.
- Malta joined the EU almost exactly 10 years ago – 1 May 2004. By joining the EU, Malta basically joined a club, with rules, some of whose rules ban the unsustainable hunting of wildlife and give full protection to Europe’s more threatened species. Malta has been breaking the rules of the EU ever since it acceded and that is not acceptable.
- of the 27 EU countries, 12 are net contributors to the budget and 15 are net beneficiaries. The UK is only the 7th highest (per capita) contributor whereas Malta is the 5th highest recipient (again per capita)(or the 17th lowest ‘contributor’). So, you and I are paying money to the Maltese as our contribution to being in the EU. I’d like Malta’s contribution to be that they don’t slaughter my birds, please. And why should I continue to pay for them if they do? The EU could get along without Malta much more easily than Malta could get along without the EU – given, for example, that Malta only produces 20% of its food indigenously and tourism is a major industry.
- why isn’t the Foreign Office making statements about bird killing in Malta? I’d like to hear William Hague saying something on the subject. Yes, it’s a matter of implementation for the Maltese government but then we are always telling other countries how to run their affairs when our economic interests are concerned. Why does the UK not speak out about its moral outrage at the rule-breaking by our Maltese EU partners? You can’t imagine it ever happening can you – why not? Think about it.
- if you look at the Foreign Office website it sets out the UK priorities over Malta – the environment, wildlife and Spring hunting don’t get a mention – why not?
- when Chris Packham got a bit weepy over holding a Montagu’s Harrier as it was euthanased it brought the moral element of hunting home. This bird was shot for fun – nothing else. The most use its death, had it been shot cleanly, could have been would have been a moment’s thrill for a hunter and then to end up as a mounted specimen to record that shot. What is the point of that? Honestly – I ask you? As it was, its life was ended by people who cared about it and wished it well and who shed a tear over its loss.
- Montagu’s Harriers look very much like Hen Harriers – remember there should be c300 more (yes extra!) pairs of Hen Harrier nesting in the north of England but they aren’t there because they have been killed. Let’s not forget the individual bird deaths behind those statistics in our own country.
- there may be some birds passing through Malta that are heading straight to the UK – though not very many I believe. It’s not, to my mind, because they are shooting ‘our’ birds that the Maltese situation is unacceptable it’s because they are shooting birds. And unregulated Spring hunting is the type of hunting most likely to cause population declines, for obvious reasons. These birds are heading back to breed and so every loss reduces the breeding population. I would guess that the population impact of Maltese hunters is quite small – not zero, probably not negligible, but quite small – but that doesn’t make it right or acceptable. And certainly if I went out into the UK countryside, and so did the French and Germans, Finns and Romanians, and fired at every moving bird in the way that the Maltese seem to enjoy doing then Europe’s bird populations certainly would be much lower.
- I haven’t seen much comment by hunters in the UK on the hunting in Malta. But this tweet by @Shootingyoutube was brought to my attention:
#MaltaMassacre is something everyone including shooters should help to prevent but please remember nearly all hunters aren’t out to massacre. That’s not bad but have I missed condemnation from BASC, Countryside Alliance etc?
- it seems that just about all the hunters are blokes – it’s a macho-thing. Quite why shooting a Swallow, or a Montagu’s Harrier, or a Bee-eater, or a Swift, would make you feel more of a man is a bit of a puzzle. What are Malta’s women doing to end this slaughter by their menfolk?
- the Maltese will be voting in the same EU elections as us at the end of May – we vote on 22 May and the Maltese on 24 May. I notice that, for some of the candidates at least, hunting is an election issue.
Well done Chris and team! Well done BirdLife Malta! Shame on you Maltese hunters!