Melissa Bachmann: Poster girl for a global industry

bachman lion feature

If Melissa Bachman wanted to be famous – how else to promote ‘Brand Bachman’? – posting a photo of herself smirking over the corpse of a dead lion, its head lifted slightly by a pile of dirt under its chin, certainly did the trick. This self-styled ‘hardcore hunter’ (in reality the animals she kills are farmed and have no chance of escape or of fighting back) found herself at the centre of a social media storm this weekend, and like many folk who are very ‘brave’ when using a high-end machine to kill an animal, turned and ran away when she found herself in the firing-line, deleting her Twitter account as she scuttled away into the undergrowth to hide.


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The furore has been interesting to follow. Of course, all decent people should be outraged by the casual slaughter of a magnificent animal (whether for a ‘trophy’ or as part of a ‘fun day out’), but there are thousands upon thousands of photos like this one on pro- and anti-hunting websites: hunters standing over dead lions or holding up shot grouse or wild geese; families posing beside dead elephants or groups of society girls giggling as they line up behind rows of dead pheasants. Some animals may perhaps be less ‘magnificent’ than others, but the result is the same: another life pointlessly ended for fun or ‘sport’ (and always so that someone can make a profit).

Analysing how someone becomes so detached from the reality of killing that they are prepared to travel – either half way across the world or from London to the Yorkshire Moors – to blast shot into a living animal is outside the parameters of this short post. The vanity and arrogance of individuals like Melissa Bachman who posts images like these is already self-evident. Perhaps it’s more interesting to think about why these soulless images are promoted across the world on TV, or in shooting magazines and on social media. What are they intended to achieve?

The global hunting/shooting industry is coming under fire like never before. More and more of us are not prepared to accept anyone’s ‘right’ to slaughter wildlife either here in the UK or overseas, It’s an industry that is at last feeling the heat, but it won’t lie down and die without a struggle (it’s certainly far harder to put a bullet into the head of the industry than it is for its adherents to ‘stalk’ a caged lion). And like any industry it needs to endlessly recruit. It needs to feed itself by finding more people willing to spend on weaponry, more people willing to buy the ‘right gear’, to persuade more people that killing for fun is glamorous or traditional or something you can do as a couple or with the family, or just because it makes you feel good…

Without finding ways to glamourise and normalise death, the world’s weapons manufacturers and suppliers, ammunition suppliers, rifle scope manufacturers, ‘hunting’ clothes manufacturers and retailers, hunting clubs, and a whole forest of hunting and shooting magazines would no longer be needed. They would go out of business. They would be the ones that die.

The shooting/hunting industry has always targeted men. But there just aren’t enough men who are willing to kill to satiate such an enormously bloated business. So who do you target next? Just like the tobacco industry did all those years ago, you sell to women. Imagine all those untapped bank accounts, all those women out there who’ve yet to be sold the pleasures of slaughtering defenceless wildlife. Why have them turn up to shoots and hunts and just stand around watching the ‘menfolk’ when they could be sold a gun too, sold an expensive ‘shooting’ jacket, sold a club membership, sold a subscription to a shooting magazine? Convince them, and you’ve got them lining up their kids as well of course. The next generation of shooters will be in the bag…

Like Pippa Middleton, who was last week pictured after a pheasant shoot, Melissa Bachman appears to be an almost heaven-sent poster-girl for the hunting/shooting industry. Leaving aside her ethics and morality (or lack thereof) Ms Bachman is a healthy-looking, physically fit, self-confident woman. She would fit just as well into an advert extolling the virtues of working out or promoting a range of health foods. She is almost a stereotype of the ‘outdoors woman’ that the hunting industry salivates over, an image of ‘being outdoors’ that an industry that rarely talks about blood, maiming, snaring, illegal destruction of native predators etc etc etc wants to sell.

Only of course most of us – women and men – aren’t so dumb as to fall for it. We don’t really look at the ‘presenter’, we look at the dead animal. The vast majority of us don’t really want to be like Bachman (or like the male equivalents used to sell the same industry): we want to live our lives in harmony with the natural world as best we can. We don’t believe the lies or the propaganda, and we know that behind the slick programmes and the well-photographed advertising, is another industry making profits from doing something that is utterly pointless and totally destructive.

I’m glad that Melissa Bachman posted her photograph. Rather than selling the ‘pleasures’ of hunting as she undoubtedly hoped, the vast majority of people who saw it were repulsed and angered instead. What’s needed now is for that majority to stand up and be counted. I hope that what results is not the destruction of an individual, though, but another shove that will eventually collapse the industry that she works for and that would have been more than happy – until this weekend anyway – to send her savage and disturbing photos right around the world.

 

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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I birded the world for twenty years before quitting my airline job and am now freelance. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores

3 Comments

  1. Duncan says:

    While I agree that the hunting industry is partly about the Benjamins (what industry isn’t?) I’m not sure you can explain the appeal of hunting purely in terms of hunting advertising or money. The hunting/gathering impulse, along with the adaptations for it, is a pretty deeply rooted instinct in people, even if (as many people have noted) that instinct is often re-purposed as collecting or ticking (trains or animals!). Regardless of whether you agree with hunting or not (and you know we differ) it strikes me as an oversimplification to wave away a primal instinct as a mere falling for marketing.

    Reply
  2. Nial Moores says:

    On an increasingly resource-poor and over-human-populated planet, does it not make sense for people to curb their “primal instincts” whenever these instincts lead to either (a) Further resource depletion or (b) A continuing mindset of destructive control over “other” – and all that will result in?

    Fortunately, most of us already accept that we need to curb and channel many of our primal instincts when dealing with other people. So strong is the consensus on this, that those who choose NOT to control such instincts or appetites can in most cases be punished under laws written to protect the welfare of the majority. It can be argued that such laws, protecting our rights, also help us to become better people and better societies, to grow out of certain prejudices and destructive behaviors. At the very least such laws can help us to recognise and to aspire towards that which is truly just and equitable.

    And yet, despite such people-people laws, there is still much cruelty in the world. And many human cultures and people still also have a terribly confused and inconsistent relationship with other species. Many of us say we love animals – and would scold another, especially a child perhaps (or someone from another culture?), seen to treat an animal cruelly. Yet many of us also seem to see little wrong with locking some animals up, killing them or having them killed for us – for company, fun or for food. Ultimately, where will such a confused, consumption-driven and contradictory mindset lead? To a better understanding of self and other? To peace and balance in this resource-stressed world? To a better future for our own and other species? Really?

    I find some reassurance, therefore, in knowing that despite all of our human flaws, inconsistencies and primal instincts (or excuses for them) that there are nonetheless several qualities that appear to be valued by all human societies, and by most people. These include truthfulness, respect and consistency. Indeed, do we not expect such qualities in those we elect as our leaders (and are disappointed if they do not match up)? Do we not hope for these qualities in our friends and family? And do not most of us aspire towards these qualities ourselves?

    And as we humans value such qualities so highly, it should be easy for us also to see the inconsistency, lack of truthfulness and lack of respect for other when we see someone who says they love animals taking part in the massacre of other animal species for fun or for food..or when we hear people defending animal-killing as “human nature”… or when we hear only apathetic silence in opposition to such cruelty.

    We have many choices available to us, even now. And as we become increasingly aware of the many different forms of intelligence, emotion and culture that exist, we can either choose to defend our own ways and prejudices ever more blindly – or instead we can choose to understand “others” and to see the world more truthfully. In so doing, in seeing other species for what they are – I believe we can all find another reason for self-control; and we can all take another honest step forward in our own personal evolution.

    Genuine compassion for other species – as well as for our own – helps all of us (animal lover or otherwise) to become more consistent in the way that we think, speak and act. And I believe that this growth in compassion and consistency is vital if there is going to be any kind of healthy future for our own species and for the myriad of other species now-threatened by our still-uncontrolled appetites and behaviors. Don’t you?

    So, I found this article really powerful. It helps to remind me again today that there are still people who want to glorify and profit from hunting. It reminds me that there are people who choose not to control their primal instinct to kill, and that some such people are even proud of their lack of control. It reminds me too that there are many willing to ignore the ugliest of inconsistencies (even within the conservation community), and that there are also now many willing to challenge them.

    Like Charlie, my own lifetime of watching and interacting with other species also helped me to grow up from a meat-eating kid (who sometimes used to kill wasps and ants for fun) into a vegetarian adult working full-time in conservation. And whatever life-path towards respect and consistency and truthfulness I might have tried to take (as a teacher, nurse, builder or business tycoon), I suspect that these images would still disgust me. And that they would disgust those I choose to respect.

    Therefore, knowing that such cruelty and violence continues, between our own species as well as against other species, and knowing of the growing biodiversity crisis, it is time for all of us who care to work consistently to help our own species take the next great step forward – towards genuine respect for other.

    Advertising and an industry built on celebrating a lack of compassion can only help encourage and sustain destructive behaviors, primal or learned.

    We need instead to support people and industries that help us overcome our primal instinct to kill, that celebrate instead our primal instinct to conserve:our own life and the lives of those close to us.

    So Charlie, thanks once more for this powerful reminder – and for all you are doing.

    Reply
  3. Charlie says:

    Nial. what a superb and intelligent comment – thankyou.

    Reply

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