Saturday, 14 March 2015

UFC vs Duck Shooting in Victoria: Which violent pastime is acceptable?

As two sweaty fighters battle it out in a cage next weekend in the hopes of claiming prize money and acclaim for their efforts, ducks in Victoria will be blasted out of the sky in the name of "entertainment".

This weekend heralds the introduction of cage fighting in Victoria as the State Labor Government enacts its election pledge to lift the ban on the practice and potentially bring millions of dollars of revenue into the state generated by these Mixed Martial Arts or MMA bouts. It was a contentious decision to allow fights in cages in Victoria. (Previously such bouts were restricted to boxing rings). When the election was approaching in 2014 and the Napthine government was desperate to stay in power as they faced at an almost certain electoral loss, they claimed Labor's proposal to allow cage fighting would encourage violence in Melbourne. Their desperation to paint the Labor opposition as bloodthirsty maniacs saw them posting on Facebook pictures of mothers cradling sleeping infants and saying that Labor's decision would be an endorsement of extreme violence.
There was also some serious hand wringing from former Police Commissioner Ken Lay at the time as he said I’m deeply concerned about the message it sends when we accept this as a form of entertainment, and the culture that surrounds these types of activities." Damian Drum who was sports minster at the time also maintained that there was a link between cage fighting and alcohol fuelled violence occurring on the streets. It was an odd position for Mr Lay and the Liberal State Government to take as fans of the sport were no doubt already watching these bouts on the internet, on TV or on DVDs, or potentially travelling interstate to watch cage fights where they were already legal. So presumably there would be some effect on these fans to witnessing these fights live in their home state that would compel them to partake in wanton, violent behaviour on the streets of Melbourne, that doesn't occur when they simply watch them on their TV or computer screens.
What has made their position even more bizarre was the fact that the previous Liberal State Government and the current Labor State Government both hold the position that the “sport” of duck shooting is perfectly acceptable. So to follow their “logic” - two trained athletes competing in a cage = unacceptable; shooting defenceless animals that pose no threat to human life = acceptable. While cage fighting is undoubtedly a violent sport, the athletes involved participate of their own free will (unlike ducks), get paid for competing (again unlike ducks) and have doctors present to attend to their injuries should they sustain any in a fight. They certainly aren't left to die an agonising death in a swamp, which is the unfortunate fate that awaits some ducks (some of them endangered breeds) when Victoria's duck shooting season begins again on March the 21st. Additionally, real sport and competition hinges on opponents having a similar chance of success, say for example being in the same weight division, as opposed to one being armed with a shotgun and the other being covered in feathers and in no position to defend itself.
In the state of Victoria children as young as 12 years old are permitted to take part in duck shooting. What sort of message about violence does it send to a child to say that killing a harmless animal that poses no threat to you is a sport? In 2011 a duck rescuer was hit in the face with pellets from a shotgun that was wielded by a 14 year old child, and while the child and his parents escaped without any criminal charges, the government did however increase fines for people protesting against this inhumane practice. The madness of giving children guns has also resulted in accidental injuries to people, just ask the 71 year old farmer who was shot in the leg by a 10 year boy who was out duck shooting with his father in 2013. For whatever reason this behaviour doesn't raise the ire of Ken Lay or any State Government to date. I know if I had a child I would much rather have them watching a UFC fight than armed with a gun roaming around a swamp looking for a defenceless animal to slaughter, particularly when studies have shown that children who intentionally hurt or maim animals are more likely to grow up to be adults that inflict violence on other people. Perhaps by allowing children to shoot ducks we're raising the next mob of louts who think violence against others is perfectly acceptable.

Killing animals in the name of “entertainment” is disgraceful and to try and pass it off as a valid recreation is deplorable. If politicians are serious about ending violence then they need to start speaking up for all victims of violence whether they have feathers or not.

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