The Coalition Against Spring Hunting (CASH) announced that so far it has collected 10,000 signatures for its proposed referendum to remove legislation which permits hunting in Spring.
A sceptic might say that less that one-third of the required amount by law have been collected, and that the target to have a referendum coincide with the upcoming European elections is way too optimistic. But an optimist might argue that 10,000 signatures represent a huge number, considering that the coalition is barely a few months old, and that the wave of signatories can only grow. From what I see, more and more people are requesting to sign. Environmental NGOs (ENGOs) and Greens have gathered signatures which seem to go beyond their immediate networks of supporters, and this can only grow through further campaigning which also comprises methods such as house visits.
The spring hunting campaign seems to have a parallel with the recent divorce issue. Political parties all have their partisan interests and strategic timings as to why they should support, oppose or remain neutral on a referendum. But within civil society, a significant number of people are ready to transcend narrow partisanship and are ready to make their voice heard on specific issues. This does not mean that they will necessarily vote for a specific party because of the issue, but it means that they will be ready to vote for the issue should there be a referendum.
The hunting referendum issue is especially interesting if one looks at the dynamics of ENGOs. Prior to Malta’s EU accession, and in the first years following that, broad alliances featuring moderates, radicals, greens and others were organized. The successful Front Against the Rabat Golf Course and the coalition against land ‘rationalization’ were cases in point, though the latter eventually splintered into nothingness.
Indeed, as time passed and general elections were approaching, different moderate ENGOs, for various reasons (the explanation of which is beyond the scope of this blog) no longer teamed up with radicals and Greens.
It seems that now we are moving back to the scenario of broad environmental alliances, which, in itself is positive. Environmentalists are realizing that EU accession is not simply a technical matter through which environmental issues are solved. Hunting is a case in point. The ruling of the European Court of Justice has been subject to different interpretations, which, in turn, go back to the political field of policy-making, enforcement and so forth.
Hence ENGOs and Greens are tackling the hunting issue in a political manner by calling for a referendum. This calculated gamble could be successful, and I hope that this would be the case. But even if not, this campaign could help re-open the door for more broad environmental alliances which go beyond narrow partisanship. In itself, this is a victory for civil society and for political action that does not wait for approval upstairs before proceeding.
This blog appeared in Malta Today, 3rd October 2013 - http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/en/blogsdetails/blogs/Farewell-to-spring-hunting-20131003