Monday, October 19, 2015

Every bird shot in spring is one nest less

Turtle dove
There a many reasons for voting no in next Saturday’s referendum one of the main ones being that those who do not hunt want to be able to visit the countryside at the best time of the year without feeling threatened by the presence of thousands of hunters who behave as if they have an exclusive right to be in the countryside.

There is above all another reason which we should not forget; the protection of turtle doves and quails when they are on their way to breed.

These two species have been hunted in many parts of Europe for centuries. In the past animals were hunted to augment the amount of meat available to eat especially for country people who could not afford to buy other sources of protein.

With today’s high standard of living nobody needs to hunt to have meat on the plate. Hunting is carried out solely for pleasure to which there are alternatives such as bird watching and bird photography.

The hunting of birds is no longer necessary especially in spring when every bird is about to breed. Every bird shot in spring is one nest less. If Maltese hunters were not blinded by their obsession they would realise that they should stop killing turtle doves.

The population of turtle doves is decreasing. Since 1970 declines occurred in up to 60% of the countries for which trends are known and the declines are continuing.

Maltese hunters who have been hunting since the 1970s or early eighties are fully aware of this decrease in numbers. Thirty years ago turtle doves used to migrate in large numbers. 

Nowadays the turtle dove is not common at all. Hunters try to justify their pastime by saying that they shoot only ‘small’ numbers of turtle doves but do not say that they shoot fewer birds than they used to because year after year the number of migrating turtle doves is less and less.
The alarm bells have been ringing for many years. Hunters should have taken their heads out of the sand a long time ago and since they did not the time has come for all responsible Maltese citizens to make them stop this destruction before it is too late.   

This article was published in the Times of Malta on 9 April 2015.


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