Archive for the ‘Wildlife Conservation’ Category

The Internet v. Melissa Bachman

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar. Some rights reserved.

If you’ve been on any sort of social media in the last 48 hours, you’ve likely come across this picture, either on its own or accompanied by some strong words regarding its content – a woman holding a hunting rifle sitting and smiling over the carcass of a male African lion. The woman in question is Melissa Bachman, a Minnesota-based tv producer and hunting enthusiast, and the lion was killed legally within the boundaries of the Maroi Conservancy in South Africa, whose slogan is “conservation through sustainable hunting.” The hunting of African lions has long been a source of outrage for animal rights activists, as they are not covered by the Endangered Species Act and as such their carcasses can be legally brought back into the United States as trophies (as 60% of lions killed by hunters are each year). The fact that there are only 32,000 of these lions left in the world and that this number could be out of date and in fact much lower does not help. Six hundred lions are killed yearly in the arena of big game hunting alone, and then there is the number of lions that die each year from habitat loss, contact with humans, etc. (a much higher figure than 600). The International Fund for Animal Welfare created a petition to list the African Lion as an endangered species two years ago, which is available here and would ban the transport of lions into the U.S. under the ESA. Earlier this year, the director of the IFAW wrote an editorial for National Geographic on this very subject.

As for Bachman, the internet has reacted (some might say overreacted – regardless of your feelings about the above photo and this story in general, this is as good a place as any for a reminder that there is no justification here for personal attacks or threats against Bachman herself and that doing so weakens the arguments made against her behavior) – celebrities like Ricky Gervais and Morrissey have denounced Bachman and the culture of big game hunting in general, while Cape Town resident Elan Burman has launched a petition on calling on the South African government to ban Bachman from any future entry to the country – a petition that as of writing this has gained over 310,000 signatures. It seems that the outrage is especially potent because Bachman can be seen smiling unapologetically in the photo. Of course, whether or not the strong dissent against Bachman is justified depends entirely on your point of view on the matter, but it certainly is a timely reminder that we have a responsibility as the alpha-species to protect the animals that we share this planet with as in the world we have built and chosen to live in, they are simply not able to protect themselves.

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