German tourists tempted to holiday in Malta are welcomed on visitmalta.com with images of a scuba diver in a turquoise sea, colourful contours of a luzzu and couples walking along a beach.

They’ve basically pieced together all the worst bits of footage

“The best-kept secret in the Mediterranean,” the website tagline reads in German, beckoning tourists to local shores with talk of local culture, island hopping and wining and dining.

But millions of Germans were treated to another side of the Maltese Islands last Monday night, when the country’s most popular TV station aired a 20-minute segment on illegal bird hunting in Malta.

Swastikas, homophobic comments, beer-bellies, spitting and even a wild slap all feature. So too do hundreds of bird carcasses – some lying in fields.

Aired on German national broadcaster RTL, the programme followed members of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter in their quest to catch illegal hunters. A CABS-owned spy plane that recently made local headlines after it was shot down also featured in the segment.

Hunters have said they intend to press charges against the German conservation group for filming them without their consent, while the government has confirmed the spy drone did not have the necessary permits to fly.

Some of the RTL programme’s highlights include an enraged Maltese man, presumably a hunter, punching a CABS member before being restrained by his friends; an obese, bare-chested man swearing and spitting at a CABS member filming him; and graffiti of swastikas and barely literate disparaging comments about Germans.

The programme, which reserved high praise for Malta’s specialised hunting marshals, argued that Maltese bird hunting was a “senseless massacre”, with many hunters firing at birds indiscriminately. It paid a visit to the National Museum of Natural History in Mdina, where museum curator John Borg revealed hundreds of bird carcasses that have been confiscated from hunters.

“What irritates me most is the hunters’ lack of respect for nature,” Mr Borg said.

Hunters’ federation president Joe Perici Calascione had yet to see the programme excerpt when contacted. He said the FKNK would issue a statement in due course, but that the programme “added salt to the wounds” of an already hot topic.

Asked whether FKNK intended taking action against any members filmed committing crimes, Mr Perici Calascione reserved comment but said the hunters’ federation had no qualms expelling members if the situation merited it. “However,” he added, “one needs to analyse a situation in the correct context.”

Hunters contend that much of the footage aired is illegal, given that the hunters concerned did not give their consent to being filmed. The FKNK is seeking legal advice on the matter. St Hubert Hunters secretary Mark Mifsud Bonnici had not seen the programme either, but he had received word of it and said: “They’ve basically pieced together all the worst bits of footage they had and tried to paint a picture that way.

“It’s a work of propaganda used to pump up their [CABS] donations.”

CABS spokesman Axel Hirschfeld – the man punched and spat at in the footage aired on RTL – explained how both men had been convicted by the police.

He defended CABS from charges that their filming of hunters was a breach of their privacy.

“We only film whenever something illegal happens, and the decision not to blur the faces of the hunters concerned was RTL’s, not ours.”

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