All Roar and No Bite

The moment I find myself in a situation where someone makes a derogatory claim against hunting, a shot of adrenaline riddles my veins.  The hard drive in my head spins up with hundreds of counterclaims which then have to be sorted in order of most to least impactful.  Then I take a breath and get a hold of myself.

No doubt many of you have heard the flak fellow hunter Melissa Bachman has taken regarding her legal harvest of a lion in South Africa.  The webernetz is replete with articles decrying her actions and comment boards are cluttered with individuals indignant at her apparent disregard for life.  Many of these commenters are so abhorred by her killing the animal that they want to prove their reverence for life by watching her die a painful death; which seems counterintuitive.

There are a few strategies for those of us who support hunting in a situation like this.  We can:

  • Counterattack the arguments with pro-hunting messages
  • Ignore the arguments like you would a heckler at a speech
  • Investigate the merit of the claims made by the anti-hunter

Counterattacking arguments will probably fall on deaf ears and not change anyone’s mind.  It’s an unfortunate reality that most people simply want to “win” an argument.  What we want to do is change their misconceived notions about hunting.

Ignoring the comments may be in order, in particular cases.  The problem is that right now, so many people are listening and interested to this high profile story.  This is an opportunity.  If we don’t engage, we run the risk of losing valuable ground in the battle for public opinion.

We’re left with the option of dissecting the claims made by our opposition.  We’ve made no claims thus far, so have nothing to defend.  Our adversaries however, have made a number of claims that may or may not be true.  The burden of proof falls on the one who makes the claim, so let’s see what’s at the root of this “controversy”.

It’s dizzying to categorize all the components of the anti-hunting sentiment in this story by simply searching the internet for content. It’s not hard, however to go to the original source; a petition created by a user named Elan Burman. is a website that allows users to create petitions and collect signatures of supporters.  My favorite petition there is one devoted to prohibiting people from referring to animals as “It”.  It has 97 supporters.

Here is the actual text of the Bachman petition:


To: Mkuseli Apleni, Director General, Department of Home Affairs
Ms Bomo Edna Molewa, Ministry of Water and Environmental Affairs
Ms Lakela Kaunda, Deputy Director General: Private Office of the President

Deny future entry to Melissa Bachman.

Melissa Bachman has made a career out of hunting wildlife, for pure sport. Her antics are captured extensively on her personal website: She is an absolute contradiction to the culture of conservation, this country prides itself on. Her latest Facebook post features her with a lion she has just executed and murdered in our country.

As tax payers we demand she no longer be granted access to this country and its natural resources.

[Your name]

I’ve taken the liberty of distilling the claims, both overt and implied (implied claims are italicized), made by Mr. Burman.  Following the claims are clarifying questions or statements regarding their validity.

Melissa Bachman’s career has been built upon hunting for pure sport.

How do you know that her motive for hunting is pure sport?  What do you mean by “pure sport”?  Would her career be more acceptable if her hunting was partially for sport?  What if her hunting was partially to create a livelihood for herself and crew?    Are there other personal motivations she might have that would render her career in hunting more acceptable to you?

The country of South Africa prides itself on its culture of conservation.  Killing a lion is not a conservation practice.

What proof do you have of this collective pride?  How has it been communicated (through game laws, etc)?  How is the legally sanctioned harvest of a lion contrary to conservation practice?  Do you know what the differences are between preservationist and conservationist philosophies?

The lion was executed.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines execution as killing (someone) especially as punishment for a crime.  Do you believe Ms. Bachman was punishing this lion for an act it committed?  Perhaps it stole a picnic basket?

The lion was murdered.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines murder as the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.  What law(s) did Ms. Bachman break?  What proof do you have that she had malice toward the animal?

Tax dollars of the citizens of South Africa subsidized this action.

In what ways did the taxpayers foot the bill for this hunt?  Do you know what Ms. Bachman and her production crew paid to participate on this guided hunt?  Would it matter to you if the hunt had a positive net impact on the local economy?

Melissa Bachman should no longer be allowed in the country of South Africa.

Why?  Did Ms. Bachman break any of the laws of South Africa?  If not, should citizens be able to ban visitors because they don’t like their actions?

Melissa Bachman engages in antics that are contrary to the conservation ethics of South Africa.

What do you mean by antics?  What are the conservation ethics of South Africa?  If you can enumerate them, how were they violated when no laws were broken in this pursuit?

The petition is signed by tax payers of “this country” or South Africa.

Are the 400,000 plus signatures you’ve received all from taxpaying South Africans?  Since you call it out so distinctly in your petition, it seems important to you that they fit those descriptors.  What will you do with those who signed but aren’t taxpaying citizens?

Are you as tired as I am now?  I do hope my point isn’t lost.  Most of the claims people make against hunting activities shrivel up and crumble with a little bit of sunshine.  It’s helpful to remember that in a situation like this, we don’t have to get worked up to start a shouting match of superior counterclaims, we simply go into offense mode picking and probing at the silliness.

Ultimately, what will help people understand the critical role of the hunter in a healthy ecosystem and economy is the personal credibility and reputation you have.  Be a decent, ethical, and passionate person who hunts and is interested in engaging the culture we live in.  When folks read stories like this, they’ll hear the hype, but they’ll check it against what they know about you, and simply brush this noise aside.   They’ll find that these arguments are all roar and no bite.