Maltese hunter had me in his sights during bird massacre, claims Downpatrick activist
A Downpatrick wildlife supporter has described the shocking moment a gun was trained on him during Malta's annual bird-hunting season.
Mark McCormick of the League Against Cruel Sports joined Bill Oddie on the island last week as part of a campaign to ban the hunting of thousands of migrating birds as they stop off each spring.
More than 45,000 Maltese people have signed a petition calling for a referendum on whether to ban the hunting of the birds as they travel the key migration route to Europe every April. More than 10,000 hunters target the migration on an island smaller than the Isle of Wight.
"There was a lot of evidence of illegal shooting. As some protected birds flew overhead we could see holes in their wings from being shot at," Mark said.
"I had to pinch myself and tell myself I'm not in Helmand Province – I'm in Malta." One hunter was filmed swinging his gun to point at Mark.
"His gun was literally pointing down the camera lens at me. It was quite sinister.
"I couldn't believe I had to leave Northern Ireland to have a gun pointed at me," Mark added.
"On the first day we went down into a valley and it looked like there was nobody there, but it you looked closely it was littered with hunters. The first bird that flew over was a collared dove and all of a sudden guns were going off everywhere. It was shot about eight times.
"Maltese people will tell you they won't go out running, they won't take dogs for walks in the countryside in hunting season – it's quite dangerous.
"The whole experience was quite surreal. I recorded a number of video diaries when out there to try to capture the reality of what is going on.
"If anyone wants to take a look you can do so at www.league.org.uk/malta"