Some Thoughts on Melissa Bachman and the Lion–277Tly0

by Gary  Francione

Melissa Bachman, who is the host of a hunting show called Deadly Passion, announced on her Facebook page on November 1 that she had killed a lion in South Africa and she posted this picture:


The response was remarkable. According to one story, “Bachman found herself the target of vicious death wishes and obscenity-laced insults on Monday as critics on Twitter, YouTube and other social networks blasted the Minnesotan for her boastful hunting escapades.” According to another story, “More than 250,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that South Africa deny future entry to Melissa Bachman, a big game hunter whose smiling photo with a dead lion has sparked considerable outrage.”

And, to no one’s surprise, the large animal welfare charities are rushing to create a fundraising campaign with a petition to have lions listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (U.S.)

I posted something about this on my Facebook page, and I had to delete the comments and close the thread because of the horribly misogynist and violent comments that were being made.

People are angry that Bachman killed the lion unnecessarily. There was no need, no compulsion for her to do so. She did not kill the lion in self defense. She killed the lion because she enjoys killing animals.

And most of us think that that’s terrible; we don’t think that we should make animals suffer and die just because we derive some pleasure from it.

Or do we?

We kill and eat about 56 billion land animals not counting fish. There is no necessity; no compulsion. We do not need to eat animals to be optimally healthy and animal agriculture is an ecological disaster.

The best justification we have for imposing suffering and death on those billions of animals, many of whom have had lives far more hideous than the lion Bachman slaughtered, is that they taste good.

So how exactly does this distinguish those of us who consume animals from Bachman?

That’s a rhetorical question: there is no coherent moral distinction between her and most of us. The fact that Bachman kills “charismatic species” and the rest of us just kill chickens, pigs, cows, and fish is completely irrelevant.

The Bachman matter is no different from the moral schizophrenia that we saw in the matters of Michael Vick, Mitt Romney, and Kisha Curtis.

On the positive side, every time one of these cases erupts, we reaffirm our belief in the widely shared moral intuition that it’s morally wrong to impose suffering on or kill animals without a good reason. Ironically, we already believe everything we need to believe to reject animal exploitation altogether. It’s just a matter of coming to see there is no morally relevant difference between shooting a lion for fun or eating a steak because you enjoy it. In both cases, we have taken a life for no good reason.

Let us hope that these episodes of moral schizophrenia cause the light to go on at least for some who make the decision to put their morals where their mouth is and go vegan.

Gary L. Francione Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione

17 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Melissa Bachman and the Lion

  1. Wow! Beautifully written.

    Recently I had to listen to someone who follows the Paleo Diet lecture me about how there have been studies proving that the vegan diet is unhealthy. I laughed. While she spewed her diatribe, a stranger sitting near us, overheard our conversation and chimed in that she too is a vegan.

    I am coming up on my 3 year vegan anniversary (former lacto-vegetarian) and I have to say, I HAVE NEVER FELT BETTER! Being a vegan is as natural to me as breathing.

  2. in addition I would like to add
    I read that there are approximately an estimate 15,000 to 45,000 lions on the African continent
    Lions are one of Africa’s apex predators, threatened by the same institutions here in the US that viciously attack US wolves, bear, coyotes and cougars to name a few. When it comes to wolves, there are less than an estimated 7 or 8 thousand wolves in the lower US before the hunts began. These animals were just delisted after being extirpated from most of the US. Please everyone show the same outrage every time you see the image of a dead wolf. These animals are being hunted down to the meager 150 population in each of the states that hunts them now. They are ruthlessly slaughtered for nothing. Wolves are out beautiful charismatic apex predators, where is the outrage?

  3. So how exactly does this distinguish those of us who consume animals from Bachman? She kills for the thrill, not for sustenance.

    • I think the point of Gary Francione’s piece is that neither action (her shooting a lion or you buying store-bought meat or shooting a deer or elk) has to happen. You can get plenty of healthful sustenance, including protein, by eating a strictly plant-based diet. If you choose to eat meat, your motive is dissimilar, but your actions are comparable in kind, if not degree.

  4. There is a huge moral difference in killing rare species, or threatened or endangered, in a blood sport than in raising and killing farm animals although both are highly undesirable and unnecessary. The blood sport killers (hunters, aka sportsmen/women) justify their sports along the same line, asking, “Do you eat meat?” Then justify their on-going wildlife killing and all the nasty implications of the sportsmen/wildlife agencies relationship in licensing for killing, game farming, marginalizing and eliminating predators, the wolf massacre states, unbalanced ecologies. They are separate arguments and both should be made separately in defending animals, wild and domestic, and their human exploitation and consumption. The two arguments should not be so mixed that the line blurs and the rationalizations for hunting (blood sport) continue. The two actions are not the same. Hunting started out as subsistence thousands of years ago, then turned to sport in the past 2-3 hundred years (mostly). The advent of agriculture and farming and ranching led to civilization 10,000 to 13,000 years ago and the following war on flora and fauna as the human population exploded leading to more ranching and more farming and settlement and development and the extraction industries and the Industrial Revolution and continuing encroachment on wilderness and wildlife and the shrinking of it, and a growing exploitation of farming animals for consumption. It is true that both hunting blood sports and farming animals is exploitation and cruel and that there is a similar attitude of animal exploitation is okay even healthy by those who want to continue to do so. They are both undesirable, with one already on the decline in the USA (hunting), and vegetarians and animal rights people should argue both, but don’t say they are the same because the sportsmen will continue the argument of, “Don’t you eat meat?” for continued wildlife killing.

  5. it seems to me an endangered species values his or her life just as much as a cow or chicken or pig. so when making a moral distinction between killing wildlife or cow or chicken, the perspective of the victim is not being taken into consideration. and it is the perspective of the victim that matters.

    sociologist nibert writes that it is with the advent of domesticating animals that humans went from an egalitarian society to one based on dominance:

    ( I haven’t yet read his book, but want to – I heard him speak on ARZone)

  6. So, who comes running to save the trophy murderers? Might as well save them all! And grab profit off the top!!! The all mighty slobs the Koch’s!! Since they are saving everyone (especially themselves from these terrible enviromentalists and nasty critters taking up valuable space that might stop from drilling and pillaging. Save the hunters their “heritage”! And keep the GOP Happy at the same time, instead of one species at a time, just wipe them all out at once!!! LOOK JIM! (remember when i sent you the Koch-sucking stuff hmm i think a week ago?) NOW LOOK!

    Tea Party Bill Would Eviscerate Endangered Species Act!
    The bill would eliminate all protections for the critical habitat of endangered species and allow state governments to effectively veto any conservation measures designed to protect an imperiled species within their respective state. Meanwhile federal wildlife agencies would need to complete onerous accounting reports to estimate the costs of protecting endangered species rather than completing tangible, on-the-ground conservation activities to protect species and the places they live.

    “This bill would devastate species protections and open the door to log, mine and pave some of the last places on Earth where these animals survive,” Hartl said. “It’s a boon for profiteers like the Koch Brothers but will rob every American who values wildlife and wild places.”

  7. At least there is outrage for an animal. Some day I think people will start making a connection to what’s on their plates… at least this poor excuse for a human is being called out though.

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