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Best of 2013 | What’s Wrong Pussy Cat?

by Jon Monsoon / 09.01.2014

Originally published 20 November 2013.

It wasn’t like it was even a quiet news week in South Africa. The flies of discontent and civil unrest were barely absent from the open-aired latrines of informal settlement and there was an audible buzz in the air above the drying cement driveways of Nkandla. A 71-year old granny lay in a coma after catching a stray bullet in Kirstenbosch while over in Court B, would-be serial killer Johannes de Jager confessed to his biggest mistake; that he chose to dismember his freshest 16-year old victim first before dumping her remains in various locations down the N2 outside Cape Town.

Meanwhile, down in the thick Limpopo Valley bushveld, a female figure crept, clad in tight-fitting lycra camo sweats, thick gold rope chain around her neck reflecting the African sun like an impoverished kid’s prayer for new school shoes or a slice of pizza. Her hair tied back in an assassin’s knot. Pausing at a clearing alongside the electrified chicken wire fence, she raised the scope of her high-powered rifle to a mascara’d eye, sighted the cross-hairs on her quarry, gave a little smile, and squeezed down the hair trigger just like her momma taught her, and just like she’d done so many, many times before.

Moments later, South African social media was aflame with righteous indignation and the sort of acid anger usually reserved for racist models, men’s mag features editors and taxi drivers. The nation’s wildlife, indeed our very civil liberty, was under renewed threat. This time from a stealthy, wealthy, lone killer, the self-styled “hardcore huntress”, US citizen and reality TV star of her own making Melissa Bachman, introduced to South Africans through her facebook and Twitter account postings posing atop her latest kill, an adult male lion poetically captioned “Incredible day in South Africa…what a hunt!”

It takes a lot these days to get South Africans truly united in their outcry over injustice. Corruption, Yugoslavian gang turf warfare, psychopathic killers dismembering children, none of it barely registers a re-tweet anymore. Yet, unleash Rambo Barbie on our animals and you have the nation baying for her blood (or at the very least, her visa, lest she ever want to return to finish off what she started).

Melissa

Don’t get me wrong; outcry over animals is a good sign. When all races, colours, and people with smartphones are united against animal murder, we’re on the right path, we’re evolving. The slaughter of any sentient creature remains an abomination and an affront to human civility (and yes, I am virtually a vegan so I can make these kinds of wild statements without reproach), but I pause to consider wherefrom such hostility towards one person that her personal Twitter account and facebook page were removed (or rather set to “Private” – viewable only by people outside of South Africa)? Wherefore did the armchair activists rise up in their masses to decry the spoliation on our natural wildlife heritage now when on a daily basis it is under even graver threat by the architects of golf estates, Vietnamese smugglers with a horn fetish and that long-line fishing trawler delivering its cargo of ill-gotten tuna for tonight’s sushi-and-half-price-cocktails? Where from the 40 000-odd signatures electronically appended to a petition to have said Melissa Bachman banned from our shores like a Russell Brand with boobs? What does it say for our democracy when a cold-blooded, botoxed killer is allowed in yet a comedian is banned?

And why only now these bandwagon whores, these wannabe warriors for the wild at their trumpets when the actions of Melissa Bachman are neither (a) illegal (Panthera Leo does not enjoy the same protection within our borders as do, say great white sharks, southern right whales or rhinos) and (b) so common on a weekly basis that just because the perpetrators of such acts choose not to post their dubious accomplishments on facebook does not mean they don’t still happen. Just because it’s not on facebook…

What is it about Melissa Bachman that angers and offends our nation so? Is she the effigy we need to burn to assuage our sense of hopelessness when nothing, not even Simba, the King of the Jungle is safe? Were we so shocked and outraged by her blatant flouting of the ancient ideology of a woman’s place in society as has governed home appliance adverts since the caveman days that we would rather see her gang raped by HIV-positive maximum security prison escapees and or hugged – with knives (both suggested forms of punishment by non-fans on her social media channels)? Was it that she took from us something without asking? She paid handsomely for the privilege of “stalking” a male lion in a cage. And again, canned lion hunting isn’t illegal. It’s not right, but it is legal. She broke no laws.

Pussy Cat

What her actions did, besides robbing the lion gene pool of what were likely good genes judging by the size of the beast, was awaken the worst class of whinger – the armchair activist; the SM celebrities whose influence to effect change runs out above 140 characters, the same people that buy their game biltong at Woolworths, because it leads them to believe that they are doing less harm (because it costs more and says “organic” on the packet, y’know, those kudu had it good, but damnit, they’re basically like cows?). The same people who will know they should feel uncomfortable when confronted by disturbing images of a freshly dead lion (or paging through Melissa Bachman’s photo albums; dead grizzly bears, dead wild turkeys, many dead alligators, many dead antelope; all manner of dead things, most of them four-legged), but don’t know exactly why. And can only vent their frustration by uttering threats against her profile, in so doing, casting themselves as no less bloodthirsty than Miss B and her double-barrel.

“We get these gutless threats all day long,” confirms Phillip Mostert, CEO of organised hunts group Hunting Legends International. “It is ironic that the hunters are made out as barbaric for hunting animals. However these “activists” have the right to threaten our lives. To swear at us like we are barbarians and to condemn us all to hell and gone! They have the right to use the foulest language, the right to publicly threaten our lives and our families and the right to evict us from society? That, to me, is barbarism at its best and I pity these people for being ignorant to reality and to what sustainable conservation is really all about,” rages Phillip. “These people have nothing better to do than to sit watching their facebook pages and criticise the rest of the world,” he concludes.

The last time the desktop activistas raised their voices loud enough to Trend for five minutes was when Donald Trump’s kids came here to play with their guns and loose morals on Phillip Mostert’s farm (2010). They also took home in their suitcases bits of the things we’d rather pay money to see walking around the Kruger Park alive. And there, for this writer anyway, lies the difference and the answer. The money paid to private hunt lodges by well endowed foreigners for the shallow thrill of knocking a wild animal’s teeth out at 100 metre from the back of a bakkie goes directly back into that lodge’s infrastructure and so funds the further purchase of further species to entice further hunters to come and ensure that those animals lives go no further. But, as far as I can see, it is a hollow trench, the value of that animal alive and swatting flies at a Range Rover full of clicking Nikons from Japan, means it’s a gift that keeps on giving (until such time as it’s poached).

Does the foreign capital that comes into the country on a hunt such as the one Melissa Bachman partook of, give them automatic bragging rights when making extraordinary kills? Kind of like how you might post a picture of the new car you’ve just bought on your facebook wall (#SWAG!)

“Nobody’s money should buy them any bragging rights of any nature,” adds hunter Phil. “Hunters are certainly allowed to share their experience with their friends providing they do this in an ethical and dignified manner. SCI (Safari Club International) has a list of ethical procedures hunters and professional hunters should abide to.” The first rule of conduct (currently under revision) reads “To conduct myself in the field so as to make a positive contribution to wildlife and ecosystems.” We’re not sure if a lion would rate a bullet through its skull as “a positive contribution”, but that’s just hearsay.

And while raging against the killing machine, why are these same voices of indignation not raised so as to be heard amongst the abattoirs and slaughter houses, beef lots with thousands of animals canned in a pen, bloodied dog fights every weekend, the fur industry? Why the massive imbalance and why the infrequent outcry? Maybe it’s all just us again taking a swipe at celebrity – because it’s easy and because we can. Melissa (unknown here, until last week Friday), is all the rage amongst mid-west American trailer parks with her very own TV show (‘Winchester Deadly Passion’. Watch the trailer on YouTube, it’ll curdle blood) “She is something like almost famous and this is why all the extremists now cry fowl,” chirps Phillip. “People don’t waste their time criticising the other 24000 international hunters who pass through South African Airports annually. If she wasn’t famous, not a word would have been said. Further proof that the whole issue is hinged on sensationalism and we cannot help ourselves but to want to get involved in it,” says Phillip Mostert.

If the collected mass of people so angered by the shameless antics of America’s hardcore hunters (and “huntresses”) like Melissa Bachman where enough to force legislation to curb canned hunting (not to outlaw hunting altogether, it has its place in the conservation chain, but that’s a debate for another fireside), then we’d really all be winning. If the mass of voices were a roar loud enough to be heard around the world, we might still one day have wild roaming rhinos to make YouTube videos out of, and that would be a great triumph. What was it brave nurse Elizabeth Kenny (Google her) famously said? “It’s better to be a lion for a day than sheep all your life?” As long as Melissa Bachmann’s not standing behind you…

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