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From The Malta Independent September 11, 2001

Questions to hunters on the occasion of the opening of the hunting season

How can the Hunters Federation dare to call the annual slaughter of migratory birds a "sport" or a "right"?

"Sport" is supposed to be a fair and courteous competition, a real pitting of strength, and should not involve helpless counterparts like the birds - otherwise the latter is normally called "massacre".

And how can anybody dare to claim hunting and trapping birds a "right"?

Who has given the hunters the "right" to hunt? God, who said in the bible, "Subdue the earth"?

To interpret this direction of God as a call for subjugating nature would be medieval. Modern interpretations of these words underline the loving responsibility we have for the creation. These words cannot be considered as a licence to exploit nature.

Once again: If God has not given them the "right", then who did?

I suppose the hunters have assumed it by their own grace - referring to a "tradition" that has been handed down to them. But does tradition always mean that it must not be questioned, that it must not be changed?

Traditions derive from past experiences transmitted in the form of attitudes, constant practice and so on. But cultural continuity does not mean that you have to stick to behaviour or thoughts that were perhaps valid and helpful in the past and had a certain reason at that time, but have had their day.

It is always necessary to make past experiences fit the new discoveries, knowledge and insights. The adaptation to new cognition is one of the main abilities of mankind - this is cultural continuity; this is human tradition.

So can anybody prove that hunting migratory birds nowadays is helpful and necessary in any way? And what kind of experience is transmitted to our children by trapping and shooting birds?

The practice of hunting and trapping gives a bad example. It teaches our children to take from nature in an inconsiderate way, instead of giving, protecting, taking care... and it does not prepare them for the new challenges of our time, namely global, sustainable and integrated thinking about environment, health and development.

So, which of the hunters will be able to justify to their grandchildren that they helped to decimate and make birds extinct due to a "traditional local sport"? Which of the hunters will face their grandchildren and tell them that they rated their selfish and cruel pleasure-seeking practices higher than the preservation of wildlife and the environment?

But you must not look too far ahead - it is enough if you stick to the present. In the opinion of many contemporaries, hunting and trapping animals can only be allowed for the following reasons:

1. Perhaps wildlife management - that is to help maintain the balance when, for example, natural predators are extinct and an animal population increases uncontrolled (but even this point is problematic, because the imbalance of animal populations is mostly caused by the interference of people and would naturally disappear if humans left the animals alone).

2. Or if you need meat to eat. If for example an Inuit hunts in the Arctic, it is for his survival under tough conditions. But even if people (unless they are vegetarians) need to raise or to hunt animals for food, they are obliged to take good and proper care for the animals involved, to treat them suitably according to their nature.

But does any one of the Maltese hunters need to hunt because he needs food and has a starving family at home?

Does any hunter in Malta need to hunt and trap migratory birds or the endemic Merill, which is already nearly extinct, to keep nature in balance?


And let us go one step further: In many countries cruelty to animals is prosecuted with heavy fines and/or jail, because people feel pity for their fellow creatures.

But not only burning a dog alive is cruelty to animals. Also cruel - of course on another level is shooting birds and keeping them in total darkness, in tiny cages.

Why would most hunters and trappers probably accept that a dog feels pain, but are not able to admit that a bird feels pain as well? That a caged bird, which normally is used to flying thousands of kilometres, kept over months in a tiny cage, suffers? Why do they have to operate on a double standard? Why do they refuse compassion to the birds?

Among other things, this constantly displayed lack of commiseration forms the background for crudeness, apathy and disrespect for nature, animals and humans alike.

David Camilleri

New York City


Eurobirder/Proact-Malta David Conlin 2001