Witch hunt for Melissa Bachman needs us to take a second look

A photo depicting American hunter, Melissa Bachman, posing euphorically alongside a large lion she’d just shot dead, didn’t take long to whip up a storm across social media platforms, with an overwhelming number of people sending the 25 year old violent criticism and death threats. In response, Elan Burman, Cape Town resident, has organised an online petition in an appeal to the South African government to forbid Bachman from ever re-entering the country. The petition comments that, “she is an absolute contradiction to the culture of conservation this country prides itself on.”

Other images from the ‘Trophy Room’ section of Bachman’s website have also been circulating. They show the young woman adopting similar poses, standing over a multitude of her other conquests. These images are exceptionally evocative: Bachman’s vivacious grin contrasted with the animals’ lifeless faces naturally rouses an angry response in those who do not approve of her actions. However, more often than not, a picture does not sufficiently explain the situation it portrays. Whilst I have always been against killing animals for sport, I cannot help but feel that this frenzy surrounding the American presenter’s activities has been another case of people jumping on the bandwagon; an excuse for people to direct hatred without really reading in to what exactly they are criticising.

In regards to her shooting the lion – perhaps the most upsetting of her photos – she did so in a Maroi Conservancy hunting park. Canned lion hunting is legal in South Africa, and whilst the concept of these lions being bred to be shot in enclosed spaces with no real chance of escape is distressing, Melissa Bachman is only taking advantage of a situation readily available to her. In addition, the ‘huntress’ is very much within her rights to post the photos that have upset so many on Twitter and Facebook, as they do not breach their terms and conditions. Just search ‘hunting’ as a hashtag on Instagram and you’ll come face to face with hundreds more photos of those who share Bachman’s passion, showing off the carcasses of their prey.

Considering these points, it would seem that the public has directed their abuse towards the wrong source. Bachman has become the face of the issues we seem to find so repugnant, yet voicing hatred towards her will achieve nothing: instead, we need to address the problem that she is legally able to carry out her actions and share them so freely with the online world if we don’t feel that it’s appropriate. To exemplify this point, on the same website that you can find the petition to keep Bachman out of South Africa (change.org), there are numerous others that seek to directly stop the practise of canned lion hunting, none of which have nearly as many votes as the former. It’s easy to ‘retweet’ a celebrity’s post adding in a few expletives to make the point that you’re not a fan of killing lions, but how many of Bachman’s critics will actually get involved with animal conservation to follow up their claims?

Whilst I don’t believe that, “If I come across her I’ll rip off her fucking face” or, “I hope she gets breast cancer and dies in pain” are remotely acceptable comments to direct towards Bachman, I do find her attitude towards animals hard to digest. Having looked into her television series, ‘Winchester Deadly Passion’, which she writes, produces and stars in, the way in which she talks about the animals she hunts is disturbing. Bachman explains excitedly how she waits until the time of year that certain animals are starving and struggling for survival to hunt them, as they “have to” come out into the open to feed.

In another instance, she shoots a boar, and on following the blood trail, she finds the arrow and is exhilarated to discover that the arrow has sunk in deep enough to kill: “the good news is, it looks like we’ve got enough penetration… right where his vitals are… at least one lung, hopefully a lot of blood.” Whilst you might be able to forgive her enjoyment of the undeniable skill involved in hunting, there exist less ethically questionable alternatives that also involve weapons and targets. The issue that lies at the heart of this Melissa Bachman frenzy is her lack of any heart towards the animals the kills, and the pride she demonstrates so shamelessly following their slaughter. This, personally, I find hard to forgive, yet think others also ought to do their research before reaching the same conclusion.

14 comments

  1. Dear Sir, you write so eloquently. I was about to lambast you until I read the last half or your essay. Visit the FB community “Stop Melissa Bachman. The anger is subsiding. There are many links to sources and video’s that are educational on the “canned hunt”, the lion farming, the conservation ranches, the lion petting zoo’s where lions are tamed as cubs to be hunted as adults. There are links to the endangered status of the lion. Many believe that the lion is not on this list because of corrupt business and governments wanting to make big bucks on the trophy slaughter of lions. And please, this defense the hunters use, the villagers were happy we killed the lion, we also feed it to them is placating and racist. Do you honestly think Africans can not kill their own lions. Just ask the Massai, they have been defending themselves from lions for centuries and with spears.

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  2. to give anything other than condemnation to this sport is reprehensible,regardless of whether this ‘situation’is available to her or not.that in it self is at the very least taking advantage of a disgusting situation.if every person did that legal or not,there is no hope for humanity.to not have the guts as an author to tell it like it is by trying to present a balanced argument lacks courage or in fact any understanding of the situation.this so called publication should be ashamed for putting it to print.one cant help but wonder what agendas are being followed.have some guts and tell it like is.
    you continue to justify this because; everybody else is doing it
    are you serious?
    in regards to bachman maybe this frenzy will at least make her look at her actions as she should.this notion of everyones doing it is whats wrong with so many.i do however agree with you that peoples energy could be better spent,though i dont agree that nothing has been achieved.if anything it has become a story that has brought awareness to many.

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  3. Leo Lion, where are you from? How on earth can you associate all rural African people with the Masai? That in itself is extremely racist. I’m South African and come from a rural village and there is no chance in hell that the villagers even closely resembles the Masai culture. You’re being ignorant.
    Sure, people might not like her expression, but in all honesty, it’s the same when someone smiles next to a meat lasagne. Wild animals that are hunted endure a lot less pain and suffering than factory farmed animals who live in the most barbaric conditions.
    She kills animals for pleasure, you eat meat for pleasure…what’s the difference?…her animals grew up in freedom, your meat didn’t even have the chance to grow up naturally.

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  4. Melissa has become a ‘necessary symbol’ of game hunting for pleasure and trophies. The emotions that her images has stir have hopefully raised more awareness to the issue.

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  5. Hunting is for survival- we have enough sports in our lives without the -‘death of magnificent animals at our selfish hands’- being one of them. Laws can change… What about people???

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  6. I am currently traveling in Tanzania and this story has provoked quite a debate here. I understand the traditions of hunting for food – I grew up with that. I have never understood the need to go out and just kill something – especially something that is not used for food like a predator. I was unaware of “canned” lion hunting – and if the only good to come out of this story is to increase awareness of this reprehensible practice then perhaps there can be some positive outcome. I appreciated this author’s measured approach to the subject and hope that a dialogue can begin regarding how we utilize resources. As always it is complicated and nuanced. Ms. Bachman’s attitude is one that I can not understand or share, reflecting a lack of respect and a huge ego. After seeing so many of TZ’s species in the wild, and seeing the shrinking boundaries of habitat here and in my own country of the USA we, human sapiens, are poor stewards of this beautiful blue planet we call home.

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  7. No, your wrong. If the logic used to defending her was true it would apply if she was photographed triumphantly standing over the kids at Sanyhook. Animals need to be defended from moles like her. The only thing that makes this situation tolerable is in understanding that statistically she is due for a hunting accident.

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  8. This issue has made me more aware of the problem of ‘sport hunting’. It has made me aware of who is involved in hunting for ‘sport’, including the British Royals, with Kate and Pippa Middleton new recruits to this ‘sport’. (According to Morrissey, who had a reaction to Melissa Bachmann’s photo, Pippa was photographed laughing in front of animals as the were caught and getting tortured. Not even dead yet).
    And these are people we edify in the United States. Not me! No longer! My live for the royals lived and died with Princess Diana.

    http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/1428428

    http://m.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/prince-i-ll-leave-britain-over-fox-hunt-ban-1-1377082

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  9. Sorry. My ‘love’ for the Royals. Really ought to start proofreading! My post was a mess! But message is clear. I have no respect for leaches such as these.

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  10. 1 Dec ’13 at 10:40 pm

    Jacob Stevens

    It should be illegal to hunt lions anyways as far as I’m concerned. There are too few of them now as it is and they need our help, not us hunting them for no other reason than for sport. They help control the population of other species and without them, it will lead to over population. Don’t hunt these beautiful animals that are endangered, they truly need our help.

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  11. The only part of this article I agree with is the part that states the obvious, that canned Lion hunting or any trophy hunting such as this is wrong.
    All the statistics and facts are there to be found as other comments rightly have said.
    Of course, it’s a corruption issue largely. Too much money is offered and these animals are sacrificed for this financial gain and consequently the tight rope many species are walking becomes thinner. I linked merely one of the numerous articles that a simple google search will show.
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/why-safari-hunting-doesnt-work

    Sadly, to say it’s a witch-hunt is incorrect. Bachman has become a “temporary” figurehead for both condoning and taking part in what is an aggressive cancer on the bio-diversity of South Africa. I say temporary because the reaction is merely no different to other figures that have gone public on their selfish thrill of death. Numerous others have rightfully experienced a similar reaction, so is the negative social media response or “witch-hunt” against them wrong too? To name a few anti-hunt commotions off the top of my head, recently we had Americas answer to “Tim nice But Dim” Sarah Palin who sent Piers Morgan a Putin-eque shot of a beautiful Bear she took down with her sheer power (or more likely a rifle from 400 meters). Secondly, Mark Gunton, a New Zealand millionaire businessman, who shot an elephant, similarly American businessman David Reinke has also caused unrest having been issued a licence by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to import a black rhino trophy to the US. Sadly this is the first import of a black rhino trophy since the animal was listed as endangered in 1980. One more notable example was the uproar surrounding the NRA member Tony Makris who was trending for a lengthy amount of time on the social media as well.

    So, this article is calling it a witch-hunt, it’s not, it’s angry people who are concerned for the Lions welfare and the rest of the exploited wildlife.
    Anti-hunting sentiments are growing in Africa, America, Britain and beyond. The gun-lobby in general has become cornered in recent years and they are trying turn this publicity to call it an attack on Bachman.

    The slightly prolonged response is simply because she’s a reasonably recognized TV “star” and has understandably become a figurehead for this disturbing past time, good.

    I absolutely don’t condone threats of violence (however, It would be fairer to see her hunt a lion without a rifle, nor the 200m head-start and comfort of a jeep), but these comments of empty threats and the over-riding negative social media posts are merely a product of modern day social media. They make it out to be a witch hunt because they are there to be found, especially for the purposes of writing an article such as this. We live in the age of Twitter. I could say there is a witch hunt out for numerous personalities, James Arthur, some celeb dumped in a Jungle in Australia or some MP, it’s the age of Twitter, if you haven’t got used to it now, the futures bleak.
    But, hopefully Bachman is a figurehead for a over-arching witch-hunt, one for the people who condone this, act upon the corruption, slaughter “our” planets wildlife for their own thrills. Long may the witch-hunt continue.

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  12. lions gonna fuck you melissa bachman ! YOU ARE A BITCH !

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  13. 4 Dec ’13 at 1:12 am

    Adam Tansell

    Like “Leo Lion”, I agree with a lot of your article and found it to have reasonably unbiased viewpoint.
    I believe Melissa Bachman has singled herself out for the vitriol she is now receiving. She has a degree in TV production and has studied Mass communication (according to her blogs), so why couldn’t she see the storm she’d bring down ion herself by publishing her pictures?
    I suspect it’s because most of these Trophy hunters live very insular existences. They only associate with other like-minded individuals and are therefore very out of touch with the general attitude to this type of bloodsport.
    A petition on change.org’s website to have her National Geographic channel program reinstated couldn’t get 2000 signatures in a year. A petition to have her banned from entering South Africa gained 480,000 signatures in one week.
    Despite this, you will hear the trophy hunters claim they are being victimised by a “vocal minority” or, as I’ve seen stated more than a few times, “A few tree-huggers”. I think this lack of awareness of the average person’s attitude toward their “sport” is a result of a sort of intellectual inbreeding, and this in turn has led to their ethical and moral retardation. Another great example of this is Rebecca Francis, another “Huntress”. She recently posted a photo of her standing on top of an animal she’d just shot, with a big grin on her face, to a website and posed the question “Do you think I’m being disrespectful to the animal in this picture?”
    All but a few of the responses on the website were supportive of her.
    Of course, she posed this question on an American Hunting Website.
    I would like to see her do the same on a mainstream newspaper’s website.
    The now infamous picture of Melissa and the lion is tame compared to some.
    Consider this image of Olivia Nalos Opre (another “huntress” and friend of Ms. Bachman, which was (she’s removed it now) proudly displayed on her Facebook page:
    http://chaos.neonblade.com/pics/OliviaNalosOpre2.jpg
    If you post pictures like this, and don’t expect a “Witch hunt” you are incredibly out of touch with reality.

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  14. I am sorry but I have no sympathy for this woman she deserves to be fired from her job and she should be banned from hunting and her Facebook and website should be banned. We try to teach our children and grandchildren to conserve and protect animals and she does this. How can she sleep at nights.

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