Letters to the Times of Malta, 24. January 2002
Alan Roscoe, Chelmsford, Essex, UK.
I was delighted to read (January 4) that Malta had been lucky enough to be visited by three red breasted geese, never seen before on the island.
It was with a depressing inevitability, however, that the article reported that every single one had been shot, presumably by men who are either unable to think what else to do with wild birds (appreciate them perhaps, or even learn about them?) or regard it as some test of skill and manhood to shoot a medium-sized, sedentary or slow moving goose.
By coincidence, the same issue carried a letter from Mr Lino Farrugia, secretary of the Federation for Hunting and Conservation.
The huge irony which apparently escapes Mr Farrugia and his colleagues is that the best way to conserve is not to hunt at all. The extraordinary juxtaposition of the two words in the title of his federation would be laughable if it were not so tragic for the wildlife of Malta and the people who are deprived of the opportunity to enjoy it.
The unfortunate timing of Mr Farrugia's letter would have been made more palatable if it had included an apology to the people of Malta for the completely pointless killing of rare and beautiful geese. Can we now expect this apology to be forthcoming or have Mr Farrugia's 'conservation' instincts abandoned him?
What is so puzzling to those of us who live outside Malta is that we see so little evidence of opposition to hunting from the general population. Day in and day out during the shooting season (and indeed outside the season as well) hundreds of birds are slaughtered when they could be earning Malta revenue through wildlife tourism. Elsewhere in southern Europe organised trips to enjoy wildlife are a growth industry. Malta lags far, far behind.
Whenever views such as mine are expressed, the common response is that the situation is improving because the police are monitoring ever more closely illegal shooting outside the hunting season. This is a dangerously nave fallacy.
The situation will not improve in any significant sense until the hunting season is actually reduced through legislation and enforcement, not merely brought within current legal bounds.
Bearing in mind how unwilling the hunters are to give up their selfish pastime, the onus rests with the people and government of Malta to pass legislation to reduce the shooting season to the benefit of both Malta's people and her wildlife.
The red breasted geese may have escaped from a wildfowl collection but there is an equal probability that they were genuinely wild birds. Either way, they were rare. Courtesy of the hunters, they are now rarer still.