Fred Flintstone shrugs on his animal skin coat, grabs some breakfast, pecks Wilma on the cheek and picking up his spear trots off to kill supper. In the evening, Fred drags supper back to the cave for Wilma to cook up. Back then, that was the only way he could feed his family since agriculture hadn’t been invented yet, so there was no plentiful supply of fruit and veg to supplement meat.
Fast forward 15000 years to the 21st century and agriculture has been around for thousands of years. We have evolved a system whereby we can go to a shop and trade. Fred now barters his goods, he has changed from his animal skin to a suit or T-shirt and he takes home the meat somebody else has killed.
Fred doesn’t need to go out and hunt for food any more; he buys it at the supermarket. So why does he hunt? Maybe he enjoys it?
Life is a funny thing. It seems that it evolved on Earth some 3.5 billion years ago and we still don’t know how this happened. We have been to the moon and thousands of people have climbed Everest, we have gone 11000 meters to the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean. But we still cannot create life.
Life is not cheap, it is irreplaceable, priceless. We cannot make it, we cannot stop it when it wants to leave and once it is gone we can’t get it back. It’s all the same life – from the smallest single cell or the largest in a giant sequoia – but try as we can we cannot create it.
Hunting, on the contrary, kills life.
Life is rare and precious and must be cherished and protected. Hunting kills life. Hunting therefore kills something that is rare and precious and that can’t be right. Just because it’s been done for thousands of years doesn’t justify the killing of something rare and precious just for some traditional pleasure.
The argument that since hunting in Malta is traditional it becomes a socio-cultural right is an over worked mantra. A tradition is just a group of related ideas that have lasted for a long time and just because traditions may contain valuable knowledge doesn’t mean they are always right. Duelling, castrati, wigs in court, dog fighting, bull fighting, fox hunting and slavery are all archaic traditions, some cruel, some absurd, all obsolete. Why should entrenched cultural traditions, however humanly significant, so easily lead to extreme moral blindness? Hunting for pleasure is morally wrong and should be consigned to history’s scrapheap.
If, like Fred, you need to hunt to survive then you would have some excuse for killing. But nowadays if you are a carnivore you don’t even need to kill, you can leave the killing to others and buy your dead animals neatly packed and refrigerated from a shop. So why hunt if you don’t need to? It’s a disturbing thought, but people who hunt do it because they actually enjoy it.
Maybe they hunt because the act of asserting one’s power over another creature’s life is some subconscious urge to bolster one’s insecurities. Perhaps these wannabe Rambos in their camouflaged fatigues and FWDs are just making a statement that they are rough tough alpha males wielding dangerous weapons.
Hunting in springtime is even more cruel and barbaric. Every year thousands of infant birds are not born because their parents have been slaughtered for pleasure while the bird population decreases because dead birds don’t reproduce.
It is not only cruel and barbaric; it is also illegal in the EU. The law is quite clear, turtle dove and quail cannot be hunted because in Europe the two species are in ‘unfavourable conservation status’ and this conservation status prohibits derogations. In 2009 the European Commission found Malta guilty of contravening the Birds’ Directive and in 2010 re-opened a new infringement procedure. Malta runs the huge risk that if it is found once again as not being compliant, it would face another court case which could land Malta in huge administrative costs as well as fines which will cost the tax payer very dearly.
Successive administrations have cynically sidestepped EU legislation to pander to the powerful hunting lobby. Shockingly, hunting hours have recently actually been increased to satisfy the urges of these bloodthirsty voters and these measures are tragically beginning to bear fruit with the slaughter of protected birds in increasing numbers.
So from now on, every time you hear a gun shot at sunrise think “Somebody is getting a buzz out of killing a bird”. Fred Flintstone did it for food. Today he does it for fun.
George Camilleri is Secretary General of Din l-Art Ħelwa. 30000 people think, like us, that Spring hunting should stop and have signed the petition for a referendum to abolish it. Copies of the petition are available from firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 21225952.