Lyn White on why Victorians love their sport

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated 15 March 2016

By Lyn White AM, Sports tragic and Campaign Director Animals Australia

Victorians love a good sporting contest, whether it’s two AFL teams facing off at the MCG, the Aussie cricketers playing the Poms on Boxing Day, or Federer and Djokovic slogging it out over the net at Melbourne Park.

We revel in the skill and courage of the participants, we cheer our favourite combatant, we ride the highs and lows of our chosen team.

Going in to bowl

We see sport and courage as synonymous. Standing cricket bat in hand, as a projectile is flung at you at 150 kph… Running back at full speed into a pack never taking your eye off that ball for a moment… We remember for decades those acts of courage… Brereton’s broken ribs… Riewoldt’s mark…

In fact, it could be suggested that Victorians love nothing more than courageous athletes facing off on a sporting field with an equal chance of victory. A fair contest.

Frozen in time: Dermott Brereton breaks his ribs

And that’s the crux of it… It’s because Victorians love sport and an honourable contest, that 9 out of 10 Victorians want another so-called ‘sport’ banned. The recreational shooting of Victorian native waterbirds that turns Victorian wetlands each year, not into sporting fields, but killing fields.

When dawn breaks on the wetlands, there is no contest, there is carnage. There is no courageous act to cheer on, just bloodied native waterbirds falling into water that was once their sanctuary. Incredibly, duck shooters don’t even have to prove that they can shoot straight before they can fire on defenceless birds.

Victorians are not opposed to target shooting. We consider that a sport. We all cheered on when Russell Mark won his gold medal at the Olympics. Years of practice and dedication honed Russell’s marksmanship before he tested that skill against the best in the world.

Russell Mark Olympic gold medallist

After all, that is what sport is about — competing against another who has an equal chance of victory — knowing that your opposite number has a sporting chance.

Last year, the canned hunting of Cecil, a lion who never had a sporting chance, who had no way to escape his hunter, caused outrage around the world. It shocked people everywhere that anyone could find enjoyment in ending his life.

Cecil the lion

Just like Cecil, there will be no ‘sporting chance’ afforded to Victorian native waterbirds when the Victorian duck shooting season opens. So dire are the environmental conditions that remaining birds are captive populations to the rare pools of water that survived the drought.

The number of Victorian native waterbirds who will be senselessly slaughtered this duck season will fill every seat in the MCG — twice. The number of birds who will be horrifically maimed and suffer prolonged deaths will fill Etihad stadium.

Our days of needing to prove we can defeat and dominate our fellow species are long gone. We hold the power. Whether they live or die depends on us. It doesn’t take courage to kill them — it does take compassion not to.

There are no victories to celebrate with duck shooting — there are only victims to mourn.

It’s time the Andrews government consigned this cruel ‘blood sport’ to history.

Why? Because Victorians love our sport — and we believe in the ethos of a sporting chance.

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