The photo of big game hunter and TV personality Melissa Bachman posing with a slain lion in South Africa surged through the Internet within the last week, kicking up a firestorm of controversy in its wake.
Bachman's photo, originally posted on her social media accounts, shows Melissa, rifle in hand, beaming over the dead body of her quarry, a large African lion, at sunset. The pic has put Melissa Bachman, star and producer of Deadly Passion on the obscure/niche Pursuit Channel, in the cross hairs. Now Bachman is being hunted herself, with vulgar vitriol abounding. Witness the "Stop Melissa Bachman" Facebook page, with more than 230,000 likes in less than a week of existence.
"Stop Trophy Hunting. Stop the murder of wildlife for the sport," the Facebook page says. "Stop Melissa Bachman and people like her from pulling the trigger."
Equally impressive as the stats on the Stop Melissa Bachman Facebook page are the numbers for the Change.org petition seeking to Bar Melissa Bachman from entering South Africa ever again; the petition has eclipsed 375,000 as of this moment, 75 percent of the way to the site's somewhat arbitrary goal of 500,000.
Bachman's hunt was facilitated by the Maroi Conservancy, which defended Melissa and its goal of "conservation through sustainable hunting" on its own newly-defunct Facebook page.
We are not apologising for facilitating the hunt. If you are not a game farmer and struggling with dying starving animals, poaching and no fences in place to protect your animals and crop, please refrain from making negative degoratory[sic] comments.
In a piece entitled "Why Are We So Upset About Melissa Bachman Killing a Lion?" One Green Planet's Kristina Pepelko posits that Bachman has come under special fire because she is a woman, "breaking the mold" in the male-dominated realm of hunting. Pepelko gets and then dismisses the real point when she says "this is really the first time that a big game hunting photo has gone viral, exposing trophy hunting for what it is" but then points out that there are countless big game trophy pics easily accessible via a simple Internet search. They are indeed easily accessible but they are not sought out by those people who are so upset about Bachman's picture; it's both circular and self-evident. The very nature of a viral event such as this often causes people to confront something they've never seen and, in this case, they've never seen it because they find the concept revolting.
Dr. Luke Hunter, Executive Vice President of wild cat conservation group Panthera, says he is nauseated by the idea of hunting exotic cats for sport but understands the service it provides: hunting brings in revenue that allows for the protection of lands that would otherwise have to be used for cattle and crops.
I think sport hunting big cats is repellent and I would welcome its demise. But my personal distaste for hunting won't help lions if shutting it down removes protection from African wilderness. Whatever one's personal feeling, hunting should be regarded as yet another tool in the arsenal of options we must consider if we are to conserve the lion.