Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Lion hunts and other things we don’t like

All of us have that button. That thing that makes us see red, the thing we hate, which if we were in charge we’d ban immediately.

In the past, people in power have been deeply offended by the notion that anyone who wasn’t white and male could have the vote. That gay couples could marry. That women could choose to terminate a pregnancy or take contraceptives. There are still many people offended by all of these things. We should be grateful that they do not get to enforce their personal preferences on the rest of us.

And yet, when it comes to certain issues, the state of being offended seems to be regarded as some sort of protected condition, which justifies immediate action from the government and an online petition because OUTRAGE and launching of countless mindless epithets in social media.

Take trophy hunting. I dislike hunting of any kind and always have. But I recognise that it has a role in conservation — specifically the preservation of habitat — and so long there is no unnecessary cruelty and the practice is sustainable and contributes in some way to biodiversity, my personal feelings have no bearing on whether or not hunting is permitted. The world isn’t the way I want it, and I have to accept that there are things that may be legal but which I don’t like.

Somehow, otherwise rational people involved in the outcry over Melissa Bachman and her lion trophy seems to have lost sight of that basic principle. I can’t stand people who pose with dead animals as though it’s some sort of achievement — have a look at this site if you really want to be offended (the dead royal antelope here really gets to me). But I find aggressively self-righteous individuals impervious to reason even more off-putting, and Twitter, Facebook and various blogs have been utterly saturated with them over the past few days.

Somehow, the dislike of hunting is a sort of immunity idol to cloak all sorts of other nasty little issues. Imagine, for a moment, if the insults here were directed at a woman who got an abortion. Misogyny and xenophobia are normally considered verboten, but attach them to hunting and it’s open season.

Can we at least be honest about the fact that this issue has nothing to do with conservation (lions hunted in South Africa now are almost all captive bred, unlike Botswana or Zambia) or cruelty — in the moments between becoming aware that he was being stalked by humans (a species he’d normally associate with regular deliveries of donkey meat) and the high caliber bullet that abruptly ended his life, that lion would have experienced a lot less in the way of stress than the average cow heading to an abattoir — and everything to do with symbolism? A woman proudly showing off a dead lion with a magnificent mane, the creature which for many embodies the idea of the nobility and moral purity of wild creatures.

Would the impact have been the same if she’d posed with a dead lioness? A jackal? A kudu? People are outraged because their sensibilities have been offended, not because this is objectively more egregious than any of the other terrible things that happen every single day. If there were consistency around this issue, we’d be far more incensed about bush meat, gin traps, the poisoning of vultures and other animals for muti and the appalling Bredell cull which allows farmers in the Western Cape, in theory, to shoot hundreds of thousands of animals classified as “vermin”.

I completely understand why people hate trophy hunting, and why the sight of a hunter posing with a dead animal is deeply offensive. I hate it too. But there are many things that would be forbidden if the people who are offended by them could have their way. We don’t ban all the things we don’t like because we recognise that we live in a world where we don’t always get what we want. In my perfect world, for instance, there would be no hunting, no abortion (and no unwanted children either), no porn, no mindless violence on TV, no promotion of empty consumerism at the expense of citizenship, no sexism, no junk food, no animal cruelty, no GMO, no factory farming and no ransacking of wildlife to satisfy the demands of consumers in the far east. But the world is not perfect. It is messy, chaotic and filled with compromise.

When it comes to the Melissa Bachman fracas, I think it would be a very good idea for everyone to dismount from their high horses — and perhaps, as Princess Anne has suggested, consider eating them.

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  • Me and Melissa Bachman
  • Want to help lions? For real?
  • Conservation innovation can help
  • Poaching, poisoning and the consequences
    • Maria

      My outrage for one is not about the death of the Lion itself. It is about a person being proud of shooting to death this animal.

    • Graham

      Melissa said ““An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion … what a hunt!”

      At least make it a fair fight and try strangle the lion.
      Coward.

    • Comrade Koos

      Botswana (from 2014) and Zambia have banned sports and trophy hunting. Kenya has not allowed hunting since 1977. Costa Rica has also banned hunting and trapping, while – Nov 23, 2010 – Uganda has re-imposed a ban on hunting.

    • http://www.toomuchtoomany.co.za David Johnson

      Great article. I believe part of this is the obsession with celebrity and armchair activism – it is easier to blame others / sign a petition than actually deal with reality.

      Two days ago I wrote a piece on the real issue in lion conservation (which is a lack of space). We have culled 200 wild lion in national parks because we lack sufficient conservation land for a higher population. Whilst I loathe this hunting, the impact on lions with conservation value of this hunt was zero. Please read about the real issue here: http://www.toomuchtoomany.co.za/blog/2013/11/15/lions-in-the-cross-hairs

    • PM

      People enjoy being the offended party. It is a socially approved form of status seeking. It puts them “over” the other.

      (shall we see who is offended by this?)

    • Comrade Koos

      @David Johnson

      Disparagingly referring to people who maybe fairly well informed on many issues as “armchair activists” means I for one will not read what you wrote. Your attitude comes across as someone who is pompous and thinks they know it all. I have no desire to read something written by someone who looks down on the rest of humanity. Thanks anyway.

    • max

      @Maria Are you similarly disdainful of the hundreds of thousands of people who earn their daily bread working in abattoirs around the world?

    • OneFlew

      There are at least a few kinds of moral assertion that appear to be of relevance here.

      The first is the demands we make on the behaviour of others even though that behaviour has no effect on us. The second is the demands we make on others because of how we like the world to be. And the third is the behaviour we demand because of the rights we attribute to others.

      The first category – banning homosexuality, say – is the weakest. Morality should pass a test of consequentialism. If it has no impact on you, your views aren’t that important. Hating Bachman in this way is a very weak claim.

      The second is that we may prefer a particular world, in which certain aspects of the commons are preserved. If enough of us feel that way we may be able to ensure that it happens. I like a world with lions; therefore we should allow lions to exist in certain numbers. A stronger claim but the lion doesn’t have standing in the argument: it is about my world, not the lion’s.

      The third is one which says that people have rights which I may not traduce, Perhaps animals also shouldn’t be traduced. Perhaps I should afford them standing. As centres of consciousness, should they have ‘rights’? Should I farm, kill and eat them? This is the strongest type of claim. But it’s then not entirely straightforward to find differentiators that would find in favour of smelly, dangerous lions but against harmless sheep.

    • aim for the culprits

      Sarah you glossed over 2 points. If people are repulsed by her false machismo in proudly shooting an animal from a distance, they are quite entitled to have a go at her. As entitled as she was to pose with the lion. Clearly the opposers won!

      That win has an additional sweet taste. It is a win over over “one of them” – a representative of the traditional licensed media who traditionally can make sure that they have the last word and dictate the thought processes of the world.

    • http://igotkittypryde.tumblr.com Jennifer Juniper

      I was definitely one of those quick to anger reactors but after some discussion and finding articles like this one, I have to concede defeat. FINE. I will accept it’s benefits on animal population, but I will never accept the pure JOY these hunters get from killing things. I kill animals and people in my video games and yes, it’s fun, but that’s b/c I know they’re not real. I had to bear witness to my roommate trapping a mouse and I sat in my room and cried for 10 minutes even though I knew I could not co-exist with this animal in my home. Killing things SUCKS. I hate even killing bugs in my house. To enjoy it is what creeps me out. I always assume, though, when it came to lions and other big cats and animals like that, that they were endangered or nearly so, and just thought they shouldn’t be hunted. But I guess that’s on me for not learning more.

      Sigh. I STILL really hate this photo and the idea that some find killing FUN, but I will accept that it might need to be done. Far worse, I suppose, are idiots that try to keep these animals as pets. I am thankful for places like Big Cat Rescue (to whom I donate often) for helping those “pets” once they’re discarded.

      But anyway, I really liked your article with it’s calm tone and understanding for WHY some of us were so upset.

    • http://www.cannedlion.org Chris Mercer

      Wow! So all activism is distasteful, because the world is not a perfect place. Let us not bother with slavery, sexism genocide or any other issue because the world is not a perfect place. What a perfect excuse to drift through life like jellyfish.
      Sorry, Sarah, I prefer to try to change things that I think are wrong.

    • Comrade Koos

      @Max

      Maria said: “My outrage for one is not about the death of the Lion itself. It is about a person being proud of shooting to death this animal.”

      I never seen people who work in abattoirs PROUDLY photographed posing and showing off the dead animals they have just murdered, but then I am sure there are such workers in abattoirs who do PROUDLY pose with the gory bodies of those they have slaughtered.

    • Kalahari Doringboom

      But then again, as a nation we seem to love our animals (and as with the Rooivalk) even seem to like naming our weapons of mass destruction after them:

      Whether Buffalo, Nyala, Hippo, Rooikat, or Olifant

      How readily we name our flaws after animals
      or anything that might take the taint
      from actions we anticipate –
      from unrequited murders hatched inside our minds.
      And when confronted, blame the animal within us.
      Not the hunter, but the elephant that tramples grass and trees
      not the weapon, but the buck caught in the crossfire.

      The driver of an armoured car or lorry
      may rev the heated engine for effect –
      but a dog that just appears from nowhere
      young township boys, hard as the stones they clasp
      older than their years… all this we blame
      on the animal within us and the spinning wheels,
      on the camouflage that betrays us while we stalk.

    • Johan

      Shooting a lion from 60 yards out is like hitting a person with a gun pointed to their head. They have no option of defending themselves. It is not about the fact that the lion died. It is not about the fact that the hunter only shot the lion for pleasure. It is about the arrogance of the hunter. In many traditions where hunting is accepted, the hunter has a certain respect for the hunted. Even in the animal kingdom. Lions don’t just kill 20 impala, eat one and leave the rest to rot. Trophy hunting is a game for spineless people with no respect for nature.

    • bewilderbeast

      I didn’t realise you and I are twins: ” I dislike hunting of any kind and always have. But I recognise that it has a role in conservation — specifically the preservation of habitat — and so long there is no unnecessary cruelty and the practice is sustainable and contributes in some way to biodiversity, my personal feelings have no bearing on whether or not hunting is permitted.”
      Amen

    • http://www,qhumisa.co.za Twice

      You write hogwash mam, this woman was out of order and stop the sugar-caoting

    • bewilderbeast

      Some more: I got married on a friend’s game farm surrounded by pine plantations and cattle farms. If it wasn’t for hunting it, too, would be a cultivated wasteland. Instead its a preserved piece of beautiful diversity, rich in wildlife. Out of hunting season it has birders and campers, who pay R200 a day if they overnight. In season hunters pay R1200 a day, plus they pay for the trophy (which the farmers decides on) plus the meat is sold on the farm at bargain rates to the local community. If it was up to the bleeding hearts that farm would be pine trees.

    • J

      The “they wouldn’t be alive unless we were allowed to kill them” argument doesn’t work.

      Wildlife devastation is the very reason that Kenya has banned all trophy hunting. The hunting of large male specimens leads to the complete destruction of the natural social order of wild animals, as wealthy (and no doubt under-endowed) hunters tend to target the alpha male, the most desirable “trophy”.

      The most disturbing thing, to me, is that hunting condones the essential commodification of the natural world – where a lion or deer is thought of as simply something to be purchased, distributed or destroyed. To me, this is a flag that indicates the presence of an incredible arrogance, and ultimately a vast stupidity. We are products of the natural world and have evolved within its complexity. If we do not respect or seek to understand and protect where it is we have come from, then our ultimate fate, and the fate of the world, will be well summarised by an image such as that of the huntress and the lion: Humanity as a dim-witted narcissist standing astride the corpse of the natural world, rifle in hand, ignorant grin plastered to vapid face. Well, done ya’ll, we managed to kill everything!

      That will be the moment in which we have collectively ceased to care about anything but our flimsy egos, we will have ceased to have the tiniest flicker of kindness, warmth or intelligence left within ourselves, all qualities that (I believe) are the only things that actually make life…

    • Jane

      I dislike hunting in all forms, especially of Lions. If the argument is for keeping the numbers down in the wild, then wildlife rangers should do the culling. Opening the country up to killing machine tourists is not my idea of preservation.

    • Comrade Koos

      Food for thought:

      1) “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ― Mahatma Gandhi …

      2) “You can judge a man’s true character by the way he treats his fellow animals.” ― Paul McCartney.

      3) It is widely reported that someone once asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought of Western civilization. “I think it would be a good idea,” he said.

      :-)

    • aim for the culprits

      hunting isn’t the only way to fund conservation. that is just a perpetuated hunter’s myth. promote game walking/photography hard and people will come and pay and no need for hunters. not that i mind them – provided that they eat what they kill

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      This entire saga showed how bored middle class South Africans must be now that they have nothing left to struggle for. Things are going pretty well if all we can get upset about is some bimbo hunting here.

      On the other hand, black rhino trophies are illegal and they’re extinct. White rhino was saved by our hunters (no, really).

      There aren’t other ways that work as effectively as trophy hunting, and there are many spin-off cottage industries surrounding hunting that create jobs, ensures conservation of vast tracts of land that would otherwise be covered in townhouses or destroyed by cattle.

      I am yet to see a valid point that condones Melissa Bachman’s actions in a reasonable manner. ‘But what about the poor defenceless animals?’ is not a valid argument, even though it would seem so to the vapid twittering classes.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      Condemns, not condones. Obviously.

    • Rory Short

      Absolutely @Sarah, I agree with you 100%. To me the picture of Melissa with her dead trophy lion was actually very sad. Sad because it showed a complete misunderstanding of the potential positive relationships that we humans can cultivate with other animals. The elephant whisperer’s relationships with animals was an example of such. No relationship is possible with a dead animal.

    • Skumbuzo

      Firslt, this animal wasnt hunted to “fund conservation”.
      This animal was hunted on a private concession to fund profit and greed!

      If ther are areas whe culliing is a requirement then so be it, and it can then be done in an appropriate manner.

      Melissa Bachmann put her picture on to her website and facebook, she was in essence marketing her achievment, as a result, she becomes fair game to all the abuse she has received.
      I know hunting occurs, and there are magazines on it, I choose not to even pick them up in a supermarket because I dont like it. But if she wants to glorify it, then she must accept that some of her “fans” (love that thought) may react in a different way.

      Remember the Trump thugs……they received the same vitriol…….AND WITH GOOD REASON

    • David Bernhardi

      What leaves me with disgust is the proud smile on her face, This is a privileged, rich woman from a “developed” country (probably the crazy state of Texas) who shows a complete lack of understanding of her place in the world, no self analysis except looking at her likeness in a picture an saying to herself: I am Diana, Goddess.of the hunt. She is a pathetic vain creature.
      Socrates said: The unexamined life is not worth living.
      Go to her Facebook page and see all the dead, once wild animals she poses over to proclaim her “skill” her supposed dominance She is the alpha female. On her facebook page are hundreds and hundreds of “likes” So much for all her friends and admirers in America where hunting and love of guns and “individual freedom to do what you want” are more or less synonymous with voting for the Republican Party and Big Business.
      To argue that canned hunting somehow promotes wildlife is a gross distortion. As another commentator said “Hunting for Conservation” …sounds a lot like “Bombing for Peace” Those who offer canned hunting anywhere should be hounded out of business. Shame on them for the exploitation of once wild animals to fatten their cheque books, That said I think this woman should be held up as an example of much that is wrong with the world – extreme wealth and privilege, self-satisfied indulgence and smugness and the slow death of the wild because of their ignorance and stupidity.

    • Comrade Koos

      Just a thought, how can we counter rhino poaching when we have a proud culture of trophy hunting the big five? Trophy hunting must be banned and those who break the law get the same penalties as rhino poachers.

    • Tharia

      Well said! I salute you girl!!

      I am a huntress and proud of the roll hunters play in conservation. Had it not been for hunting, most species and wilderness places would have been distinct in countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and the USA.

      All those foul mouthed, poorly informed hypocrites should rather spend their energy and money on fighting the ILLEGAL trade in reptiles, birds, primates, ivory and rhino horn (which often goes hand in hand with drug and human trafficking).

      I don’t see them shouting slogans and waving placards around at feeding lots, abattoirs and chicken ‘factories’ about the cruel and inhumane way growth hormone infested domestic animals (that most of them eat!) are treated.

      Why the discrimination between various species of animals – or are some more equal than others?

      They should STOP bugging honest, hard working people who have a deep love and respect for nature in all its forms and who financially support the survival of many species. At least hunters are doing something constructive to preserve our rich natural heritage for future generations in a sustainable manner.

    • Littlebobpete

      @Tharia

      Hunting plays almost no role in conservation, that’s your “hunter” propaganda.
      Culling may play a role, but not hunting. Hunting is purely an economic consideration. There’s a demand, so we’ll offer a product, but at a cost.
      Hunting income goes into private coffers, finished and klaar.

      A deep respect for nature, shooting something at 60 yards…………please woman………

    • Comrade Koos

      If lions start to over-breed in a conservation area then neuter some of them them like we neuter dogs and cats. There must be a happy medium, so many breeding lions per area.

      If they can dart wild animals to tag them, they can dart them to neuter some of them.

      The culture of trophy hunting is barbaric.

    • Jean Mackenzie

      I am appalled at the whole damn lot!!!

    • Alan Dean Foster

      @Tharia; funny, isn’t it, how Nature somehow seems to manage even in the absence of human trophy hunters?

    • Bert

      My partner and I once visited Konopiste Castle in the Czech Republic, where some of the estimated 60000 animals shot by Archduke Ferdinand (who was himself shot in Sarajevo, appropriately, triggering WW I) were on display (in stuffed ‘trophy’ fashion), and it was truly an obscene sight, reminiscent of the time when hunters shot thousands of animals ‘just for fun’, often leaving hundreds of carcasses to rot. In the best movie Kevin Kostner ever directed, Dances With Wolves, the wolf that the main character befriended (and gave him his name, Dances With Wolves), follows in the wake of the soldiers and its human friend after his arrest by them, only to be shot – just because they CAN; for no other reason. This is the right perspective on trophy hunting, canned hunting and all those legalized forms of murdering our animal brothers and sisters: these magnificent animals are murdered just because people possess the technological means of doing so. When I saw how beautiful the male lion was that was shot by Melissa Bachman, the senseless of the killing was heightened, given the thought, that many people could have feasted their eyes on it in all its majesty, had it not been for the MONEY that the killing brought to some idiot who ‘owned’ this King of Beasts. On the face of it the argument, that we have to cull animals ‘for their own good’ (to prevent overcrowding in reserves) is plausible, until one asks: why is there so little space for them? People took it all.

    • Momma Cyndi

      My one and only problem with all of this hoohaa is the hypocrisy. (to paraphrase) Poison a hundred ugly (endangered) vultures and nobody bats an eye – shoot a handsome lion and everyone loses their minds.

    • Comrade Koos

      @Bert

      How do we create a balance between space for wild animals and space for people?

      And from a different angle for those who have been following the Melissa Bachmann debate, this is the best article I have read on it so far:
      http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2013-11-22-a-view-from-a-melissa-bachmann-hater-no-matter-the-rationalisation-killing-is-wrong/#.Uo7kEcSmbfg

      >>

    • Stephen Browne

      @Comrade Koos: I’d be embarassed to link that article. The hideous conflation of human/animal rights is almost laughable.

      This situation has been blown far out of proportion. The real issue is not the hunt or the hunter, it is a much bigger one of how mankind has been so stupid as to push such a magnificent creature to the edge of extinction.

      The reason is of course depressingly convoluted, and I would not presume to attempt an answer.

    • http://thoughtleader.co.za/gavinfoster Gavin Foster

      Bang on!

      I don’t like hunting but live and let live. Besides, I wear leather, eat – and enjoy – meat, but let other people do the dirty work while I pretend that these products are made in a factory.

      Besides, there are no retirement homes for aging animals, and no kind death. They either become too frail to eat and starve to death, or are eaten alive by predators. Nature is by nature cruel but “civilised” societies try to ignore that.

      I still don’t like hunting though.

    • Marc

      It boggles the mind that you consider abortion something that simply “offends” abortion opponents and anyone that opposes it to be attempting to impose a “personal preference” on others.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Marc:

      You’re welcome

      http://lmgtfy.com/?q=define+abortion

    • Tony DiBiase

      While much hunting of many Apex Predators goes on I will limit my response to the Lion. Lion “hunts” or so they are called, have no role in conservation. The Lions are raised in deplorable conditions from cubs and in most unnatural ways. Melissa Bachman hunted her Lion exactly this way in a canned hunt. Here’s how it goes. The lion is raised to maturity and in that time is very used to humans and can be consider somewhat tame. On the fateful day the Lion is drugged and placed into a travel crate. Delivered to a fenced in “hunting zone” at which time he is released in a disoriented state. They tie the carcass of an animal to a nearby tree to attract the Lion who is also not fed for days so he’ll go directly to the carcass, As he lays to eat the meat a safari vehicle pulls up and the fearless hunters get out. The lion sees them but doesn’t react because he is used to humans. They open fire and hit the lion as he then gets up to face his aggressors. They all fire rounds until he falls. He roars with his last breath and dies a hero and with dignity and bravery. He would attack his aggressors because no lion dies without a fight. IF you want to call this conservation or even hunting I do believe you need to educate yourself to what each really is before you write about something you apparently do not understand. Nothing to do with conservation. It’s basically murdering a defenseless animal for greedy gain. All these “hunters” will someday be…

    • Tony DiBiase

      Opps I posted the response above to they wrong page….Sorry!!

    • Pierre

      I sleep better at night knowing that some common sense prevails despite all the self righteous waffle regarding this hunting story. Unless you’re a vegan, re-examine your motives and whether you are able to consider these objectively.