I mentioned the other day that I was writing the occasional article to post on a local news site, and that if they weren’t too specific to our politics or culture(s), I might pop them onto 23thorns as well. This is one of those.
I have never understood the mechanism of something “going viral”. Why does the whole world suddenly focus on a picture of a grumpy cat, or a clip of a chubby but unexpectedly nimble Korean rapper dancing like he’s riding a horse?
We’ve got something going viral out here at the moment. Something unusual. It seems to have popped up in the UK, but I don’t know if it will reach much further than that. This charming young lady is Melissa Bachman;
As you can see, she likes to kill things. Lots of things. If you do a Google image search on her, you will see that if it bleeds, she has gunned it down. Or shot it with an arrow. Or hauled it out with a hook. The very concept of life appears to be offensive to her.
She has just popped out here for a visit, to free us from some of those nasty wild animals that plague us so. She shot a lion, and stuck up the above picture on her Facebook page.
And precipitated an almost unprecedented outpouring of hate. People are calling her some rather unpleasant names (I have repeated some of them here. Sorry), and starting petitions to get her banned from the country.
It’s all a bit surprising. Hunting is not exactly universally accepted and admired. There are people out there who are quite vocal about stopping it. But we’ve never seen anything like this out here. People hunt here every day, and are completely ignored. But something about the good Ms Bachman caused us to reach some sort of tipping point. We really, really don’t like her.
Here is the article. The site doesn’t allow pictures. All you need to know is that Diepsloot is a Johannesburg shanty town, and Bushbuckridge is a dusty and poor rural settlement on the edge of our largest wildlife area. If you are curious about the “canned” hunting I keep referring to, Google it. But be warned; it’s a very ugly business indeed.
The lion hunter
I obviously haven’t been paying attention. The world is up in arms, and I only noticed a couple of minutes ago. Something awful has happened. Someone shot a lion. Which wasn’t nice. But that’s not all. They shot a lion and exposed us all to some awkward truths.
The hunter in question is a woman called Melissa Bachman. She’s not just a hunter, she has her own TV show about hunting so that other people can glory in her vendetta against the four legged creatures of the world. She shot her lion in Limpopo. Then she posted a picture of its corpse on Facebook. And all hell broke loose.
She’s cracked the big time. Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition demanding that she never be allowed back into our country again. Such worthy people as Ricky Gervais are calling her names on twitter, and she has basically been driven off the internet. That’ll teach her!
Now that we’ve shown her the door, perhaps it might be time to look at those awkward truths.
1. This happened because she is a woman.
Pop down to your nearest supermarket and check out the magazine shelves. You’ll find a section stocked with hunting magazines. Open one up and have a look. The pages are filled with people posing happily with dead animals. Hundreds of them.
More than a thousand lions are shot in South Africa every year. Without this backlash. Melissa Bachman’s mistake here was not shooting a lion, like all those other hunters did. Her mistake here was that she did so while being an attractive woman. Which was very naughty of her.
If you don’t think that this is all tied up with her gender, log onto one of the news stories about the incident and check out some of the things that people are saying about her. They’re kinda gendery. Unpleasantly so. Which leads us to the next awkward truth.
2. This is not the way to combat hunting.
The hunting debate is a complicated one. There are compelling and emotionally charged arguments from both sides. One of the strongest weapons that the anti-hunting lobby has in its arsenal is that they are the good guys. They are nice and gentle and caring, and hunters are mean.
Which means that the campaign against Melissa Bachman has been a monumental failure.
So far, I have seen her called a bitch, a whore, a p**s, a twat, and a c**t. I have seen articles and tweets expressing the hope that she gets raped, that she catches AIDS, that she gets breast cancer and dies in pain, and that she gets vaginal herpes. As I said, it is clear from the responses she has received that her greatest crime here was her gender.
That’s not nice. I am fully aware that these were not the sentiments of all of those outraged by her picture, but somewhere along the line, that became the tone of this entire incident. Misogyny and hate. If you have strong feelings against hunting, the best way to combat it is to win over as much support as you can. Most people, if asked, would profess to be against hunting. They just aren’t invested enough to take any sort of stand. They need to be mobilised.
And you don’t mobilise people to join the good guys by calling a woman a c**t on the internet and making crude remarks about her vagina.
3. This is not just about lions. It’s about economics.
Most of the people reading this would agree that shooting lions is distasteful. It’s wrong. It’s not nice. More than that, it is, to me, completely inexplicable. Who spends hundreds of thousands of Rands, and travels across half of the planet, to stand in a dusty little patch of grass and put a bullet into an animal to stop it from breathing?
But here’s the awkward part. Whoever these people are, and whatever their motivation, this is where they come to spend those hundreds of thousands of Rands. And it adds up. To over six billion Rands a year. And nearly 100 000 jobs. And that is not something to be taken lightly.
And that’s where the really ugly arguments begin. What price is a nation’s conscience? How do we place a value on right and wrong? Ask that question at your next dinner party and people will start shouting and screaming and spitting up their chardonnay.
Now take a look at the people doing the shouting. They’re the sort of people who have dinner parties and drink chardonnay. The sort of people who take family holidays down to the bush. They are the part of South Africa which can turn up their noses at six billion Rand. Now go and ask that question in Diepsloot. Go and ask it in Bushbuckridge.
The ugly truth is that we are not a wealthy nation, and can ill afford to turn up our noses at six billion Rand. Or 100 000 jobs. We’re OK with leather shoes. We’re OK with roast lamb, and veal, and battery chickens. If we’re OK with killing domestic farm animals, for six billion Rands why aren’t we OK with killing domestic lions?
4. Yup. That was a domestic lion.
Most of the less vitriolic statements surrounding this incident have been about the senseless death of a majestic wild animal. But that’s not quite right. Sure the death was senseless. Sure the lion was majestic. But was it wild? Probably not. The vast majority of the lions shot in South Africa are canned lions. They are domesticated animals, reared in captivity like goats and released into smallish enclosures to be slaughtered. Like goats.
Canned lion hunting is a very dodgy industry indeed. It is filled with unethical shenanigans and ugly and cruel abuses. And it saves wild lions.
Wild lions are hard to hunt. There aren’t that many of them in suitable areas, they are scared of people, and shooting them has horrible consequences.
If you shoot a wild male lion in its prime, you are probably shooting a pride male. Which means that other males will move in. And disrupt and possibly break up the pride. And kill and eat all the cubs.
Wild lions should be left alone. Do away with canned hunting and they won’t be.
5. The petition against Ms Bachman is just stupid.
What Ms Bachman did was not nice. But she did nothing illegal. Sending off a petition to get her banned from the country is simply pointless. Countries don’t work like that. There are laws. People don’t get turned back by customs because “some people got together and asked us not to let you in”.
I would suspect that the petition and all the vitriol wouldn’t even bother her that much. We aren’t the only people with an anti-hunting lobby. If she makes her living shooting animals on television, you can be sure she has encountered these sentiments before. With slightly less emphasis, I suspect, on her genitalia.
So here’s my suggestion to all of those out there who are currently gathering kindling to burn Melissa Bachman at the stake. Take a deep breath and calm down. Have some chamomile tea. Once your pulse-rate has come down a little, sit down and plan a proper anti-hunting campaign. With a proper target. Try the canned hunting guys first. Google them; they really are very dodgy indeed. When you see what they are up to, the words “morally indefensible” will spring immediately to mind.
Just be sure to talk it over with those guys from Diepsloot first. Six billion really is a lot of money. And stop calling women c**ts on the internet. The moral high ground is a shaky enough place to stand already.