The piece is written by the same author of this other Guest Post that looked at Labour’s chase for the hunters’ vote. This post looks at what the other side is doing.

The Nationalist Party never had the hunters’ vote. Most hunters always voted Labour. So, in a way it is a bit of a mystery why the Nationalist Party under the Gonzi administration successfully strove to fight a case in the European Court to obtain a spring hunting derogation, when it was alienating a part of its electorate.

Look at past election campaigns and you are bound to see key committee members meeting members of the hunting federation. They endorsed José Herrera and Clint Camilleri in the past. Now they are endorsing Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia, Gozo and Hunting Minister Clint Camilleri and Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo. It’s ironic that the minister for tourism, who receives large amounts of complaints about hunting, endorses hunting. But the district is more important than bread and butter and the jobs that the sector creates. The islands’ economy, that depends so heavily on tourism, is less important than the votes of a few hunters who hunt in the Mellieħa area.

In this day and age, no one needs to hunt to survive. Though some eat what they hunt, they do not need it out of an absence of alternatives. They do it for fun. As Bernard Grech said recently, people need pastimes. But times change and pastimes evolve. We frown over the pastimes of dog fighting and cock fighting. Why should a party that is speaking abut the future speak about spring hunting as ‘a right’, when it isn’t really. The Nationalist Party has lost an opportunity to speak about plans that could really be implemented to give hunters a meaningful pastime by helping them adapt to changing circumstances. Bernard Grech also spoke of trapping, when trapping has been banned by the European Court. Why didn’t Bernard Grech speak about meaningful scientific projects involving trapping, which could in part satisfy trappers but also help in true research and science?

And what does Bernard Grech mean when he says that there has been a referendum, and he will stick by it and defend it. Does that mean there can’t be another referendum when the right time comes? That we need to remain stuck in our ways?

Bernard Grech put his foot in it twice when he spoke recently in Ħaż-Żebbuġ. First when he promised spring hunting, when he knows, or should know, that you can’t hunt vulnerable species in spring, when birds are on their way to breed. Second when he said that law breaking by hunters will not be tolerated. That is not what hunters want to hear. Hunters want to hear that those policemen who enforce environment protection laws are transferred and replaced by more complacent officers who turn a blind eye. Hunters want lawlessness. That is why they vote Labour. An official government report shows that the number of illegally shot birds increased from 21 in 2015 to 235 in 2020. “The problem of illegal killing of protected birds has evidently escalated in 2020,” the official government report says.

Bernard Grech may believe he scored brownie points with hunters. Labourite hunters were mocking him on Facebook, saying they can’t ever trust the Nationalist Party. The truth is, most never did.

And another truth is that people who are sick and tired of being bullied by hunters, being showered with pellets and abuse when they walk in the countryside, feel orphaned. People don’t just vote because they are sick of corruption and greed.

People also vote because they loathe the idea of seeing birds fall out of the sky. And probably Bernard Grech has helped those people to vote somone else. No environment NGO has ever backed a Nationalist politician.

You can’t please everyone in a campaign. True, every vote counts. The Nationalist Party can never beat Labour at this game. The Nationalist Party was always renowned for being on the right side of history, for taking decisions that matter and take people forward.

If there are any environmentalists left, they have been left orphaned as they know Labour is their worst nightmare, but the PN may not be better, at least on the hunting issue.