Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Terrible Photograph

This is Melissa Bachman. She is a professional big game hunter. She recently went to South Africa to hunt at the Maroi Conservatory. She posted this picture on her Twitter account with the caption, “An incredible day of hunting in South Africa. Stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion…what a hunt!” The photograph has gone viral, the indignation of the animal rights people has been intense, and she has since shut down her Twitter account.

For the most part, the arguments of animal rights groups always have creeped me out a little. Like all ideologues, their rhetoric seems overheated to the point of farce. The “cockroach has feelings and deserves due process” sort of claptrap makes them sound fundamentally insane, so they are easy to dismiss. I also have no use for anti-hunting zealots. If it weren’t for deer hunters in Virginia, no one could drive in the country at night without plowing into one. I understand the historic and cultural significance of hunting in rural America, especially here in the south and I have no problem with it. But, for me, there is something overwhelmingly terrible about this photograph.

The first time I ever went hunting with my Dad, I was probably 8 years old. We lived in Alabama and a bunch of men from our church had invited him to go deer hunting. I came along as an observer only, since wisely, nobody in Nicholsville, Alabama trusted me with firearms. I remember nearly freezing to death, and I also remember what I felt like when I heard the shots echoing through the trees. It startled me out of my boredom. When we all gathered around the dead buck, I remember vividly how beautiful he was, how powerful his frame. And then I saw his eyes, large, glistening and wide open. This eight year old felt like bursting into tears. It was then that I knew that I could never be a hunter.

Which brings me to this picture. Listen, I have no problem with mowing down any and all of the squirrels that plague my tomato plants all summer, and if I was being attacked by a lion with deadly intent I would not hesitate to kill. But, how on earth could this woman have peered through her scope at this magnificent beast and pulled that trigger? The male lion is perhaps the noblest creature on this planet, an awesome combination of strength, speed and beauty unmatched in the universe. He is called the King of the jungle for good reason. To kill one just for sport and a photo-op seems like an expensive and perverse kind of pleasure. My reaction to the picture was immediate and unanimous. I felt an overwhelming sadness and a sense of great loss. I suppose that makes me a pathetic softie.

Guilty as charged.