Over the last few days we have been saddened to our very souls by the reports coming from Malta, where the annual migrating bird hunt is on. Beautiful birds, – known and loved by us all – are brought down by waiting guns, who think of this activity as sport. Your humble author, a gundog to his fingers’ ends, and connoisseur of coney and cock pheasant, is bewildered by this hellish hoovering up of the innocent. These are not game birds; mostly they are inedible or too small to get a meal from. It’s been a long time since larks’ tongues were set in aspic and set before a king. Or so we thought.
Fortunately, heroic naturalist and bird-lover, Chris Packham, with other brave folk, has been trying to interrupt the killing and engage the hunters, as they pursue their ugly and incomprehensible slaughter. He has shone the light of publicity on this revolting practice, which is carried on in the face of an official EU ban. His Tweets with their accompanying photos are harrowing and heart-rending, as are the exhaustion and revulsion on Chris’s own face, as he endures day after day of his peaceful protest beside the dead and wounded. Countless beloved summer visitors, eagerly making their way to English shores where we are longing to welcome them, are being shot from the sky every day: birds of prey, like this harrier, swallows which in summer share our coastline with the skylarks and wagtails safely here at home with us and waiting for you, and now you will not be coming. How can this be?
When you realise what fate is in store for these amazing creatures, after thousands of miles on the wing, a small spaniel like me wonders why they ever bother to go away from us in the first place. There is food a-plenty for them here, honest and truly there is. As someone famous once wrote:
O swallow, sister, O fair swift swallow,
Why wilt thou fly after spring to the south,
The soft south whither thine heart is set?
Shall not the grief of the old time follow?
Shall not the song thereof cleave to thy mouth?
Hast thou forgotten ere I forget?
To learn more about the harrowing events in Malta, and what you can do to help stop them, you will find Chris’s on Twitter (@ChrisGPackham) and his most recent video report here: