As a child I started accompanying my father out hunting at the age of 10, years before I got my hunting licence at 21. Now that I hunt, it served to instil in me a respect for nature, my quarry, and a way of life many nowadays find abhorrent.

At that time in the late 1970s, though regulations did exist, enforcement was only a word in any dictionary since hunting was free of any enforcement.

Hunting was always considered as an enjoyable traditional pastime, good for your health and a way of procuring a delicious meal for the family, and still is to this day.

All birds were in those times shot to be eaten and nothing went to waste.

With time, education and even more so following EU accession, EU regulations coupled with the pressure by those opposing hunting resulted in enforcement of hunting laws being taken seriously and nowadays what before was common practice, shooting protected birds, carries heavy fines and even imprisonment, and has practically been eliminated.

Indeed, times have changed and so have hunters. Take spring hunting as an example, Malta’s most popular hunting season.

From a year-long season with no restrictions on what to shoot and when, we have ended with 21 mornings under a derogation.

From a limitless number of turtle dove, quail and any of the 32 legally shot species, we now struggle to derogate for a quota of 1,500 turtle doves and 2,400 quail. 

From no enforcement we now have seven officers for every thousand hunters which by far surpasses enforcement in any other EU state. The whole issue has become a farce to the extent that government ironically calls on the army to assist in enforcement thereby creating the wrong perception of a national disaster.

The hunting sector accepts this pathetic situation to hunt in spring for lack of any other satisfactory solution, which even the European Court of Justice confirmed in its verdict in the ruling of Case C – 76/08

What stands in the way of my enjoyment and that of thousands of others is an organisation, BirdLife Malta, claiming an ornithological purpose that in reality strives to abolish spring hunting and hunting in general.

Once we joined the EU and under its current radical leadership, this entity believes it has a right to dictate what’s right or wrong and finds a wall of support in the European Commission.

Hunters are accused of occupying the countryside when most of it is private property or leased. Spring hunting was deceitfully termed as illegal when in fact EU directives permit it and an ECJ ruling, in the case of Malta, endorsed it.

This organisation instigated an abrogative referendum and lost it. It criticises the government, the opposition and law enforcement when in reality all are within their rights and do their job admirably.

Now it attempts repeated court action that, apart for wasting the court’s precious time and taxpayers’ money, is repeatedly thrown out. All this extremism can be evidenced in our local press and social media.

Hunting in Malta has no chance of seeing justice- Mark Mifsud Bonnici

What is also abused is the European Commission, which has no investigative powers and relies on stakeholder and government reports to form an opinion. Added to this we have an accommodating sector of the media that uses any report of hunting illegalities, true or false, as its bible in support of the anti-hunting crusade.

All this at the end of the day sees the hunting sector facing EU action and the scorn of the uninformed gullible public that succumb to damaging propaganda against hunting.

I certainly cannot deny the fact that a few illegalities still exist, though nothing in comparison to years gone by or that evidenced in other EU states in publicised reports.

Any perpetrators should, and are, being brought to justice.

However, the situation in the field is far from what some gain by portraying it as an international disaster for their own aims.

One thing is for sure and clearly evident: I and all hunters have accepted change and would be more at rest if the few renegades are weeded out.

However, those wanting to see a popular world-wide accepted lifestyle being exterminated locally see no room for compromise and arrogantly warp fact and interpret European directives to suit their ideals, apart from exaggerating facts to their advantage.

I’ve come to the conclusion that as a hunter, hunting in Malta has no chance of seeing justice done considering the European Commission relies on, acts upon and uses the words of extremists and an accommodating media as a means to stigmatise a substantial sector of Maltese society.

Malta does have a miniscule share of the world’s hunting illegalities which all concerned are doing their utmost to eradicate, however  this certainly does less harm to our international reputation than those extremists that brandish Malta as a hell for birds simply because they abhor hunting and at all costs want to have things their way. 

This certainly was not my perception, or that of the hunting sector, of a fair European Union that abhors extremism. 

Mark Mifsud Bonnici is president of Kaċċaturi San Ubertu, the second largest hunting organisation in Malta.

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