Hunters have accused environmentalist group Birdlife of using a children’s magazine to indoctrinate young readers and have written to Education Minister Owen Bonnici, asking him to intervene.  

In a statement on Monday, the hunters’ federation FKNK said that young minds were being fed information that was “wrong, unbalanced, manipulated, misrepresented and a lie” by editions of il-Ħuttafa, a bi-monthly magazine for Birdlife’s junior members. 

The FKNK singled out the three most recent editions of the magazine, which is handed out at schools, and took particular umbrage at an article published in the March-April edition which asked why the spring hunting season had been opened, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. 

An excerpt from il-Ħuttafa which angered FKNK.An excerpt from il-Ħuttafa which angered FKNK.

“Ironically, positive cases declined substantially after the spring hunting season was opened between April 10 and 30 2020, while recoveries increased significantly,” the hunters’ federation said, adding that it had donated €13,000 to health authorities to help them in their battle against the pandemic. 

Another article in the June-July edition of Il-Ħuttafa expressed concern at the prospect of the Miżieb and Aħrax woodlands in Mellieħa being given over to the FKNK to manage, noted that hunters “kill many protected birds each year” and that trees in the woodlands had been planted using public funds. 

FKNK said these claims were all untrue. 

In its statement, the FKNK also alleged that the Birdlife Malta magazine had falsely claimed that all hunting and trapping was illegal and described all hunters and trappers as “criminals”. 

Times of Malta was unable to locate such statements in recent editions of the magazine. 

Contacted for a reaction, Birdlife stood by the magazine articles, saying whatever was reported was based on facts.  

The federation said that it had no issue with Birdlife educating children about nature and wildlife but that it had overstepped that mark with its “frenzied attack" on hunting and trapping. 

It also recalled that it had clashed with the NGO over a similar issue in the past and noted how, on that occasion, a libel court had found that FKNK’s accusation of “brainwashing” was “a fair comment.” 

The FKNK said it had written to Education Minister Owen Bonnici to intervene and was considering legal action against Birdlife.

FKNK president Joseph Perici Calascione speaks about the federation's concerns of indoctrination. Video: FKNK

Birdlife denies 'indoctrination' charges

Birdlife Malta chief executive Mark Sultana said il-Ħuttafa magazine had been issued to schools for the past 25 years, and is one of the most informative magazines on the environment which children have access to locally. 

“Nature is something children are interested in and we educate them on its beauty in all its forms. We also educate them on what impacts negatively nature including insensitive development, pollution and hunting and trapping,” he said.  
Sultana said the magazine also relayed the reality of what is happening in the country.  The March-April issue, he said, had tackled the fact that a hunting season was opened despite authorities recommending the public stay indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The magazine, he said, had pointed out how during the hunting season various protected species had been shot.

“We only mention facts,” Sultana said. 

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