Article in the Times of Malta, 24. January 2002
Malta shamed in foreign press
By Jennifer Baker
While letters from many concerned Maltese individuals and animal welfare groups have flooded into this newspaper expressing outrage at the massacre of eight swans on Sunday, one foreign newspaper also focused on the issue.
The Scotsman newspaper on Tuesday published an article describing the horrific scenes at St Thomas' Bay last Sunday.
The piece, written by Tim Cornwell, had the headline Shocked Malta in uproar over hunters slaughter of swans.
However, Tourism Minister Michael Refalo told The Malta Independent that he did not expect tourism to be adversely affected by the publicity.
These people give Malta and law abiding hunters and trappers a bad name. Shooting protected birds out of the water is not sport but cold-blooded murder. However since the State and the whole population of Malta, including the hunting lobby, has roundly condemned the outrage, and as immediate action was taken against the alleged culprits, any reasonable person, tourists included, should conclude that Malta has the political will to eradicate abuse of hunting laws.
Therefore I do not believe that anyone with sense in his head should react negatively against Malta, said Dr Refalo.
In other countries we regularly read of abuses against children and the weak, should we therefore make generic condemnations of all the citizens of those countries? No, we should condemn those guilty of the crime. On the positive side, I am pleased at the prompt response of both the police and Armed Forces, concluded the minister.
Marsascala mayor Charlot Mifsud was also damning in his appraisal of the situation: We condemn it, he said.
Here in Marsascala we have been trying to educate people. We have being trying to make people more aware of the environment, including bird life. I think this act was perpetrated by someone who didn't think of the consequences. They didnt think about what they were doing and the local council totally condemns this act.
However The Scotsman article says that hunting is an integral part of Maltese society.
Hunting is part of the islands culture, with tens of thousands of people as registered gun-owners and hunters in a nation of just 400,000. One local objection to Malta's planned accession to the EU is that European directives could limit the sport. Hunters' groups insist that only a tiny minority shoot endangered birds, but wildlife groups say the toll is high, said the article.
Hunting, and particularly bird hunting, is a passionate pastime in Malta. Hunters on Gozo shot dead the last pair of Maltese falcons in 1982, explained Mr Cornwell.
The article further stated that The issue of bird hunting in Malta resonates with ornithologists well beyond the Mediterranean islands. Monitoring groups estimate that as many as three million birds are shot or trapped each year, most of them migrating between Europe and North Africa, driving down populations on the two continents. Songbirds are trapped and sold at market, while larger birds of prey or rare species are stuffed for collectors.
The piece also quotes a British tourist who was disgusted by the slaughter.