If you needed one good reason to support the government’s wise decision to suspend the autumn hunting season then look no further than the hunters’ impromptu, unsanctioned protest.
As Malta enjoyed a rare show of political consensus to mark 50 years of independence, a pathetic mob of hunters gathered in Valletta to do what they do best – act unruly and bully the political class.
They hurled beer cans, they kicked and poked a Times of Malta reporter and photographer, and they shouted obscenities at the Labour Party club, vowing they would never vote for it again. Then they proceeded to Buskett and hurled stones at birdwatchers. One person was videoed burning a Labour flag, while another urged “everyone to go out and shoot anything that flies”.
Why do they do that? Because it is the logical consequence of decades where hunters feel they can act with impunity. For years, politicians were prepared to listen to hunters’ unreasonable demands because they feared they were a strong enough lobby to sway an election.
On the other hand, the Labour Party and the Nationalists ignored the silent majority, the law-abiding citizens who look at the bigger picture, not at the prized, bloodied, dead bird.
Of course, only the naive would think that the government’s decision to suspend the spring hunting season was dictated by morality rather than political convenience. Our EU Commissioner designate Karmenu Vella is expected to get a tough grilling over our hunting reputation when he faces MEPs on September 29.
Today The Sunday Times of Malta ran a story which showed that a delegation from the EU Commission is expected in Malta on October 9 to review the hunting and trapping situation. What many are not realising is that the very next day, the government will open the hunting season again and my bets are that we will still be reporting illegal shooting.
Was anyone surprised with the shooting of protected birds in the past days which prompted the closure? Why should we be surprised when the afternoon curfew was removed and the police’s Administrative Law Enforcement unit overhauled? Why is the government reopening finch trapping? Is it because it formed part of that dodgy deal the Labour Party struck with the hunters on the eve of the election? In other words, do you blame the hunters who were led to believe they could do as they pleased?
I'm sure the hunters' federation condemns this afternoon's despicable acts. But we cannot agree with its claims that it is just a handful of hunters breaking the law. A casual walk in the countryside is enough to expose the way many hunters feel they can act with impunity. I heard gunshots on Saturday, hours after the government suspended the season. This is symptomatic of a society where a few thousand bullies scream louder than the law-abiding citizens who are desperate for a semblance of law and order.
The big question is what will the government do next? Will it extend the suspension? Will it at least stop trying to derail a spring hunting referendum and listen to the silent majority? Joseph Muscat has a golden opportunity to put an end to this nonsense and cut his party’s umbilical cord from the hunters. My guess is he won’t.