On April 11, we have one extraordinary and hard fought chance to make Malta a better place and put our country among those that honour the collective responsibility of protecting nature in spring, the season of rebirth. We can do this by voting No in the referendum against spring hunting when we can regain the right to enjoy the countryside in spring. In Malta this is a short, beautiful season when nature is at its best, when colours are bright, the air is fresh, light is translucent and we renew ourselves after winter.

On April 11, we can recover the freedom of roaming undisturbed through country lanes, over terraced ridges and in sheltered valleys with our friends, families and children without suffering the oppressive atmosphere created by 10,000 camouflaged persons wielding guns, without the constant rain of lead shot, the sight of scattered bloody feathers and the threatening sound of barking dogs.

We can regain enjoyment of silence in our rural areas and hear ourselves think.

Our green open spaces are where we go to re-energise our spirit, find relaxation and peace. They are the sitting rooms of the rich and the poor alike and, in a hospitable island such as ours, where we must offer a pleasurable experience even from an economic aspect, of our visitors, particularly in spring when the magnificence of creation can be truly appreciated.

By voting No we will also put an end to the barbaric and outdated practice of killing birds as they return to the north to breed, having braved their hard flight over the desert, namely quail and the beautiful turtle dove that are killed here for sport.

Once enjoyed in droves as they flew over the island in spring, now they have diminished so much in number that they need protection so they can reproduce.

By voting No we can proudly say we will have made a difference

We need to vote No for the future well-being of these and several other birds, many rare and protected, that get shot out of existence just for pleasure. This is not the legal killing of birds endangering an airfield, or that may spread disease, or for scientific purposes, all practices being portrayed by the pro-hunting lobby as equal in legality to the killing for sport.

We are entirely responsible for perpetuating this sorry state of affairs over many generations but, on April 11, we have a chance to change things for the better.

On that day, by voting No we can finally eradicate that horrible sensation to which we are subjected each year when the spring season is declared open. Then it is driven home that there are persons out there desiring to kill live species just for pleasure before they have their young, who overrun our public spaces and deny us their tranquil enjoyment. Oddly enough, these persons endanger the very sport they practise and they just don’t get it.

There are many of us ashamed of this wish to kill and who cringe at the thought that the authorities can allow a practice that utterly disgraces our nation’s honour. Thankfully, there are 25 European Union countries that would not dream of allowing this to take place. If we want to be among the best, it is to these we should aspire lest we allow more dead feathers to be pulled over our eyes by those who would persuade us we should aspire to the couple that do.

On April 11, we can take great national pride in becoming the 26th European nation that understands that birds have no political boundaries and who recognise that the responsible governance of our natural assets is far more important for the future than today’s enjoyment of the selfish few who hold our politicians to ransom.

I urge all citizens of Malta, but in particular of those localities such as Sliema, Birkirkara, Naxxar and others where local elections are not taking place, to get up, go out and take a friend with you to vote. Then, if you are still in doubt, before you place your mark, ask yourselves if you want to make your country a better place so it stops shooting birds in spring before they have their young, be among those who protect life not destroy it and show the authorities that our environment is important to us.

I am married into a family who inherited their father’s shotguns and I am proud to say that, on April 11, we are all voting No. That day, we can all do our bit to hand this small patch down to our children in a better state than we were given it and exercise our right to protect our earth.

By voting No we can proudly say we will have made a difference.

Simone Mizzi is executive president of Din l-Art Ħelwa.

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