The huntress.

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.

63 thoughts on “The huntress.

  1. Brilliantly written article; couldn’t agree more! I abhor this woman (and anyone who trophy hunts) but I also abhor the misogyny.

    • 23thorns says:

      I found the entire incident a bit odd, as if the world had been saving all its venom and anger about hunting for that one woman on that one day, to spew it all out in the most ineffectual way possible.
      As I said in the article, if you’re anti hunting, take on the canned hunting industry, not slaughter-Barbie…

  2. Greg says:

    Well the outrage is here in Costa Rica as well. Although I don’t think it is just because the shooter was female.
    Just a few days ago I saw a post warning me to no host with GoDaddy because the CEO was an elephant killer…the article was from 2011. So maybe public figure is the driving force – one that has a social following to help the virus spread.
    Not only do these things go viral they don’t have a memory and can be used over and over to stir emotions. I personally think hunting for sport is pathetic but in your example and in mine, you can easily show your displeasure with where you spend your dollars. If offended, don’t host with GoDaddy and don’t watch the huntress’ show.
    The name calling is just out of control – I am from the US and can think of no better example than the craziness of name calling between the disciples from both parties.
    It used to be that the ad hominem attack was the attack of last resort by one who knows they have lost….Now I think it is just used instead of thinking.

    • 23thorns says:

      I remember there being a bit of fallout for the godaddy guy at the time. There was also an incident with Donald Trump’s sons a few years ago. But neither of those came anywhere near this incident in terms of the aggression of the response. That’s just how the internet works, I suppose…

  3. Spy Garden says:

    I’m so glad I’ve never joined facebook. Seems to be an effective method to avoid virals. oy! Hahaha too bad common decency (or your thoughtful article) will never go viral!

  4. sjcourchesne says:

    Agree entirely. Soon as I saw this pic on Facebook, without any backstory, I thought, “Oh boy, hot chick with a gun shot a lion. Here we go misogyny!” Remarkable, how deep seated is the vitriol.

    • 23thorns says:

      What I found most interesting was how misdirected the anger was. It’s like bawling out the waiter when the chef didn’t cook your meal properly.
      If that’s what floats your boat, take on the whole hunting industry. There is very little mileage to be had in taking down a single woman.

  5. Nylabluesmum says:

    You are right about he tipping point…one thing I can say i that I abhor hunting for sport! PERIOD!
    Glorifying sport hunting is repulsive…
    I have Aboriginal friends here who hunt to provide food for their families. tTey do not glorify what they do nor do they post their kills on Facebook preening with pride….UGH!!! I hope this *person* is banned from your country! Problem is she will pop up somewhere else….our cougars bettr run & hide!!!

  6. johnjroberts says:

    Why I stopped hunting in 1969 (too many crazies in the woods) and fishing in 1995 (not enough natural fish left in wild).

    • 23thorns says:

      Your attitude has kept pace with the world. I would imagine that there was hardly even such a thing as an anti-hunting lobby in 1969.
      But the world seems to have moved along since the, leaving the Melissa Bachmans behind.

  7. rose2852 says:

    I hear what you’re saying, but I’m still uncomfortable with the whole notion of hunting for sport.

    • 23thorns says:

      The part I struggle with the most is the motivation of the hunter. Why? What do you get out of crossing half the globe to put a bullet into an animal you claim to love and respect? What’s the pay-off for these people?

  8. mariekeates says:

    I’m kind of embarrassed that she’s English. There is a massive anti hunting lobby here because of the fox hunters but that seems mainly to be focused on that fact that they all wear pretty red jackets and live in mansions. Money is the issue not gender. It makes me wonder whether anyone is really against hunting per se, rather than the kind of people who hunt.

  9. erickuns says:

    Another excellent post that reminds me why your blog is popular. You give a different and true angle, and express it clearly and humorously. The 2 main points for me were that the hatred against Bachman is because she’s a female “hunter”, and that the lions are “canned”. Then we get into protecting the wild lions and the industry of canned hunting providing much needed jobs.

    Aside from Bachman being a woman, I think we are still offended in general by anyone proudly standing over a corpse. It smacks of those thumbs-up pics from Abu Ghraib, or any of the triumphant self-documents of having taken another person’s life or tortured and humiliated them. Least offensive are the pics of people with the fish that didn’t get away, and yet those are also about triumphing over the underdog, Goliath gloating at squashing David. People’s disgust with this kind of self-glorification at, in Bachman’s case, shooting fish in a barrel, is probably wholly appropriate irrespective of context. Of course it’s entirely worthwhile to have more context, as you’ve provided in such a friendly manner.

    • 23thorns says:

      Thank you kindly. If you do an image search on Google for trophy hunting, you’ll see quite how much of this there is out there. It is a feature of the internet, this sudden and overwhelming attention that is brought to bear on a single person.
      I am no supporter of this woman’s hobby. I simply don’t understand why anyone would want to do this. But I’m a little uncomfortable with the rage and hatred being concentrated on one person. What will happen when it’s my turn?

      • erickuns says:

        “What will happen when it’s my turn?” Ha, ha, ha. I see your point. Keep up the great blog. I enjoy visiting your corner of the universe.

  10. Delilah says:

    Well said!

  11. Buzzwordz says:

    Well, don’t be surprised, but this has even gone viral in Toronto Canada, where our mayor is very upset at having any air time taken away from his vitriol. I think the issue here is not that the huntress is female, but that National Geographic, the go-to warm place for animal lovers, was giving her her own show. All about how to kill things that live. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with hunting if it is for food, but to kill just for killing’s sake? Well, that I have an issue with. I was aware that some women do actually become afflicted with ‘Small Penis Syndrome’ and feel the need to prove how great they are, and clearly the huntress is one of them, but she is not the only hunter people are focused on. There is a lot going on here regarding the ‘canned’ hunt. You know, shooting fish in a barrel, shooting horses that are corralled, hunting lions in an enclosed space… don’t think the outcry is just over the lovely if not small penised Melissa Bachman, I think people are just getting sick and tired of killing for the sake of killing, and that is a good thing.
    PS I miss you! Can we do something cool like 100 posts in 100 days?

  12. ktfi says:

    Hi 23 Thorns, I appreciated your article. I too was pretty staggered by the outpouring of venom and wrote about it here:

  13. abidragonfly says:

    Thanks for a really great article. Really nice to see someone engaging with the economic realities of conservation. I know very few people working with or for animals and animal rights who do it for the romantic notions of wilderness and majesty. Probably we are all going to have to do it because it just makes sense. And it always requires balance. This is not easy to express and you did it masterfully and politely in this blog post. Sincere congratulations

  14. derekevens says:

    Great Read, well written and complex indeed.

  15. Lyle Krahn says:

    I thot you did a masterful job of taking a complex problem and breaking it down into understandable parts. And along the way you managed to artfully point out the ridiculous approach of the worst critics. A reasoned response in a sea of misinformation is welcome!

  16. polarguide says:

    Thank you, I was going to write a blog about this myself but you did it way better than I could have. You nailed every point I intended to make. Gender bias, turn the focus to the industry of canned hunts not one individual. its a bit more complicated than one little lady shooting a lion. Great job!

  17. Susan M says:

    I am so glad that people are using the correct words to describe this picture. Even if those words aren’t acceptable in polite company. There was another one circulating just before this one, a whole family with great big smiles on their faces beside an elephant one of them had shot. These people are abominations and I am ashamed to be in the same species with them.

    • 23thorns says:

      I remember that picture. It also seems to be a fairly common thing to do to buy your early teen-aged son a large animal like a lion, elephant or buffalo to slaughter as a coming-of-age present.
      As for the name-calling, a lot of people seem to share your sentiment. For myself, I would feel a little more comfortable if it was spread around a bit, and a lot more comfortable if it didn’t seem so entirely focussed on her lady-bits…

  18. narf77 says:

    Replace the word “lion” with the whole of Tasmania and you have the same scenario that your article outline. So you want to shove a dirty great tin/copper mine in the middle of the very last Southern Temperate Rainforest? Do you have lots of money? You do? Ok…your in! Permits? Don’t worry about them…Protesting? We can deal with it… just keep that money rolling in so that we can tell everyone that the state is prosperous… Whatever we have is up for sale folks…you want to buy it, just bring all that lovely cash and someone will sell it to you. No worries about the right permits, the right ethics, the right of our kids to have something reasonably worth inheriting in the future…it’s for sale. You can shoot it if you like, just keep that cash flow going.

    By the way “I” am not alright with roast lamb, veal, battery chook and leather shoes Mr 23Thorns, just soes you know ;).

  19. syrbal-labrys says:

    While I despise “sport hunting”, I understand the idea of raising lions to shoot rather than disrupting natural prides. I do think you popped the nail on the head about half the vitriol being because a woman is running about shooting things; obviously guilty-conscienced males might wonder what ‘big game’ she might shoot next!

    All that said, I still rather find myself hoping that this woman and everyone else who simply kills other creatures for fun instead of as food goes blind or something to fuck up their ‘fun’.

  20. This is a really, really interesting read; I’ve seen this passed around among my Facebook friends for the past few days, and watching the controversy unfold has been intense. I live in the U.S., in Mississippi, and I’m a graduate student at a university. Because my friends and family are a mixed-bag on everything, especially hunting and gender politics, Bachman’s lion hunt has been both criticized and hailed; my friends both hate her and want to date her.

    • 23thorns says:

      Tell them to be careful what they wish for. She appears to be rather heavily armed.

      • hee. No kidding. But then gun culture is just par for the course here. It’s one of the things I find so interesting and disturbing about my home. Each day as I head to work I see a sign that says “Buy her a diamond, get a free shotgun”-a Christmas promo that a jewelry store here is running. It’s a weird life.

  21. artourway says:

    Now I will still need time to understand . . hunting in Canada is probably in the same boat. I feel that we are hunters by nature. Not ever having had to kill an animal, puts all of this into a different light. If I needed food, yes I would kill.

    • 23thorns says:

      I get the idea that hunting is far more widespread and accepted in Canada. There are quite a few hunters out here, but they are mostly in it for the meat. the Vast majority of these trophy hunters are foreigners, from the states and Europe. Which makes the response to this woman a little more understandable. She was an outsider, coming in to mess with “our” animals…

      • artourway says:

        Does anyone ever even eat Lion meat ? Really would like to know why any government would want people to hunt animals they are not eating. Would love to see Lions get a fighting chance and help find a way to stop this before we lose them all.

      • 23thorns says:

        The government is more keen on the money these people are willing to part with to hunt. It’s not just the hunt. They need to buy a permit, pay for travel, pay for accommodation, buy crappy little tourist trinkets at the airport….
        Oddly enough, this type of hunting has nothing to do with the survival of lions at all. These animals are bred especially for hunting. They simply aren’t wild animals. If anything, this type of hunting lets proper wild lions live out their lives unmolested.

  22. rayjamieson says:

    Well said, well written, and yes, balanced! We saw the headlines and the photo here in Australia and the hate campaign is here too! However, through reading Wilbur Smith and Tony Park books, I have been inspired to learn more about this situation before these headlines went up and I understand what you are saying about the canned lions and domestic hunting. It’s all about economics and unfortunately, the powers that be have decided, or been paid to decide maybe, that this is the way to fund conservation. Given half a bottle of Scotch Whisky and someone to scribe for me, I’m sure overnight we could come up with some different, hopefully better and certainly less controversiol (or maybe not!) ways to fund conservation. Perhaps a tax on Chardonnay will make an entrance into the mix, but that would probably be even more reviled (by the current crop of complainers!) than shooting the lions!

    But your main point, about the hypocrasy, misogyny and opportunistic ‘holier than thou’ critisisms is spot on. It’s easy to blame and whinge, but a bloody big job to get the complainers off their collective buts and harness the energy they put into their whining to channel into creating solutions. Always was – always will be!

    So the lion (and other animal) hunting will continue for a while, til someone decides to get serious about it and actually commit some resources to the issue, and make it a priority for the country/ies involved! Apparently it is a major issue for elephants too – encroaching on farming land and creating a real conflict of interests… Hard to make a fence for elephants…

    Good luck with it and thanks for an amazing blog – every time!

    • 23thorns says:

      Thank you. The elephants are a problem, but a very different one. These canned lions are bred specifically to be hunted- They’re essentially being farmed.
      When it comes to the elephants, despite the resurgence of poaching in other parts of Africa, South Africa has too many of them. And the problem exists because we have learned how to fence them (electric fences do the trick). Nothing kills elephants, so the population continues to grow and grow. They are hugely destructive, so they will eventually destroy their own environment, along with all the other creatures who share it with them. They used to be culled, an ugly business in itself, but there is a moratorium on culling at the moment, so their numbers are growing and growing.
      The whole situation is, like the lion one, complex and hugely emotive. There are simply no easy answers.
      But when all is said and done, I still don’t understand why someone would want to shoot either of these animals for pleasure.

  23. artourway says:

    Glad I didn’t have my cup yet 😉

  24. artourway says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:

  25. sula1968 says:

    my sentiments exactly!

  26. colemining says:

    So well said. As much a I despise that picture- and the idea behind it (that hunting is a ‘sport’), the vitriolic response has been overwhelming. Thank you for a balanced picture of the ‘hunting industry’- and canned hunting- and for being a well-reasoned voice amongst the crowd.

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