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Aryanna Gourdin, a 12-year-old Utah girl, has become the center of an online storm after she uploaded pictures of herself with dead animals she killed in a hunting expedition on Facebook.
Gourdin, who operates a page on Facebook called "Braids and Bows," claims to be a hunter and often posts pictures of her hunting trips with her father, Eli Gourdin. According to the New York Daily News, she went on a hunting trip to South Africa last month, where her trophies included a zebra, giraffe, and impala.
The photos sparked an online rage with commenters quick to denounce the actions of the young girl, with some even going to call her a "murderer," "evil," and "disgusting" for what was believed to be an insensitive act from someone as young as Aryanna.
One of the pictures Gourdin uploaded was with a dead zebra, rather callously titled "One of my dream hunts for sure."
This picture alone has been shared almost 74,000 times at the time of writing, sparking a vigorous debate online about the need for hunting and its consequences to efforts of wildlife conservation. This picture also drew widespread criticism, with commenters rebuking Aryanna for the picture as well as the choice of words for the caption. One commenter wrote that the dream for a young girl like her should be to feed animals, not kill them and then post their pictures on Facebook.
"Your dream is to kill a zebra. While others is just to be able to feed and take care of one. I think your mind is a little f**ked up."
"I feel sorry for you....you obviously have been taught this is ok...hope you grow up soon and see that these animals are innocent victims of unfair brutality. You are not a real hunter, you are hunting for sport that is murder," wrote another commenter.
But while most people were completely taken aback by the picture, some hunting aficionados also sought to "clear the air," arguing that the members of the hunting community mostly have to keep their adventures under the wraps for fears of a backlash if they try and do something like what Aryanna did.
"But why is everyone hating on her she's hunting so what? I go hunting too its not illegal just pay the fees and have a permit. I respect this young lady to hunt something like a zebra and lion takes tremendous skill and then people still get mad? This is why the hunting community don't post anything publicly cause some people would say 'I hate him/her for taking an animals life' like you weren't saying that eating chicken nuggets or cheeseburgers?"
Although the pictures drew Aryanna widespread criticism from both animal lovers and activists, she obdurately continued to post more pictures, saying that she would never stop what she loves doing most. In another post, Aryanna uploaded pictures of herself with a dead giraffe, sparking further anger and resentment.
This picture, especially poignant for the way the giraffe's neck -- probably its most distinctive feature -- is used by Aryanna to rest her arm, created a furor online, with most people arguing that doing something so insensitive and being proud of at 12 years of was just plain ignorant.
"Some of us have visited Africa and have the decency to shoot animals with a camera not a gun. People like you are going to end up denying our children and grandchildren the privilege of ever being able to see some of these animals living in their natural surrounding.. I don't understand why you think these photos should be met by the majority of us with anything other than disgust at your actions."
But even in the face of overwhelming criticism, Aryanna stuck to her guns (literally) and said that what she was doing was actually helping conservation efforts instead of derailing them.
"Although there are flaws in the current system, (poachers posing as ethical hunters for example), trophy hunting remains the only effective way to obtain money for conservation efforts," she wrote.
"Just because someone chooses to display their 'Trophies' doesn't make then a bad person. It represents memories. 5 my family have more respect, love and understanding of wildlife than most of you people."
Even so, the overwhelming reaction to Aryanna Gourdin's photos have been that of utter disgust and anger, and while it is probably naivety on her part which makes her defend her actions with such gusto, it still should be no reason to completely ignore healthy criticisms of her insensitive -- and rather bizarre -- actions.
[Image via Aryanna Gourdin/Facebook]