“Murder most foul”: The shamelessness of Melissa Bachman

“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men” (Leonardo da Vinci).

TV host and self-styled big game hunter Melissa Bachman is facing public outrage and disgrace after using social media to post a picture of herself gleefully posing with a dead lion she had killed. Bachman shot the lion on a hunt in South Africa and tweeted the picture with the message, “An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion … what a hunt!”

BachmanThis sickening photo (included here only for those who haven’t seen it) was added to Facebook as part of an album called “Africa 2013”, which included pictures of her next to other dead animals killed during a trip to the Maroi Conservancy hunting park. Outraged South Africans – who seem to have forgotten that hunting wild animals under license is legal – have started a petition to have Bachman banned from their country.

It’s not the first time that Bachman has been on the wrong end of a petition. In 2012 an online campaign got her dropped from the National Geographic Channel reality series “Ultimate Survivor Alaska” because of her dubious reputation. The petition accused National Geographic of abandoning “its traditional stance of conservation and protection for a partnership with a trophy killer.”

The number of lions in eastern and southern Africa is rapidly decreasing, with an estimated 30-50% drop every 20 years since the 1950s. The main causes of the decline include disease, habitat loss, and conflict with people. Lion conservation has required the establishment and maintenance of national parks and game reserves, of which the best known are in Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, and Kenya.

Conservation efforts apart, no one who has seen the film “Born Free” or who knows the work of Joy and George Adamson or Valentin Gruener and Mikkel Legarth will forget the unlikely bond that can be forged with these magnificent animals. But that’s not the point. Killing them for the sake of killing them is an act of extreme selfishness and brutality.

Lions figure in the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species and are regarded as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List. In 2012 it was estimated that there are between 32,260 and 34,907 lions left in Africa, with some 11,500 in southern Africa. These numbers may seem huge – but extinction is predicated on variables such as climate change, habitat loss, pollution and disease, and the single deadliest cause: human beings.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer may seem outdated here, but in On The Basis of Morality (1840) he memorably wrote, “The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western cruelty and barbarity. Universal compassion in the only guarantee of morality.”

South Africa needs to take seriously the idea of banning the “sport” of lion hunting rather than banning individual hunters – although I, for one, would be glad to see Bachman permanently banned as well. Barbarity deserves no less.

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