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.
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.