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.