Friday, 1 February 2013

In reply to "Hunters want foreigners to stop roaming countryside 'as they please'.

The following is in reply to the article issued on the Times of Malta, on the 31st January 2013; "Update - Hunters want foreigners to stop roaming countryside 'as they please'.

Honey Buzzard - Kuccarda
Photo by Chris Cachia Zammit

It is not appropriate for the Federation to propose a "ban for foreigners to roam around in the countryside", and I do reprimand poaching and unethical behaviour, but on the otherhand, I have never heard of farmers or hunters who have benefited in some way or another from ad hoc walking tours. As Merill Eco Tours, we are diligently applying the international principles of ecotourism, whereby the rural community receives financial benefits for the activities we organise. It is not pleasant to boast about the countryside and at the same time keep the countryside stewards out of the equation. Unless hunters and farmers are involved in more conservation projects, the situation will continue being a black or white theme on the media. 

I have been working and speaking to hunters for several years now and working in the eco and agri tourism sector has urged me to understand what's happening.  

I cannot agree about hunting and trapping in principle, but am willing to accept it as being part of the Maltese culture. Hunting, trapping and fishing have been documented to be part of the rural lifestyle in Maltese history for ages! The recent enforcement of legislation has indeed helped to reduce the number of poachers and it is about time that people start making a distinction between hunters and poachers. Some hunters are extremely diligent and should not get the blame for the actions that poachers have done. A typical example of "mal-hazin jehel it-tajjeb". 

Extremists (both environmentalists and hunters) have been causing the situation to escalate. The antagonism between hunters and environmentalists has brought about the unnecessary over publicising of the issue, reflecting badly on the eco image of the Maltese Islands. Hunting is a common practice in several other EU member states including the UK and Italy. 

It is rarely mentioned that law abiding hunters are also environmental stewards; they care for the trees in the areas they hunt. Caring for trees means, picking up the litter that many irresponsible picnickers leave behind, as well as paying for and carrying the water to irrigate the trees and keep an eye on the areas to prevent fires. The rural environment we, together with other ramblers, enjoy is partially being maintained by some of these hunters, therefore not working in tandem with their needs is detrimental to everyone.

Jeanette Borg
Merill Eco Tours

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