My good friend Elan Burman was so apoplectic about the indiscriminate murder of a lion that he started an online petition, went viral, and is now fielding interviews from the likes of BBC and CNN. His righteous indignation, cleverly combined with a can-do attitude, is inspirational and, I hope, successful.
When American TV hunter personality and all-around lunatic Melissa Bachman posted pictures of herself with a South African lion she shamelessly, proudly, wastefully, and cruelly shot and killed, Elan petitioned South African officials to deny her any further visas to enter the country. He garnered nearly 32,000 signatures from all over the world, helped to muster a global backlash against Bachman’s antics, and must be at least partly responsible for the disruption of her website and the removal of some photos of her horrific animal slaughters.
Not being someone who finds illumination in the inventive ways Bachman has developed to kill animals for fun, I had never heard of her before. But I encourage you to check out her YouTube videos to get a full-HD appreciation for the depravity with which some humans approach animals. In one video Elan shared with me, Bachman uses a special whistle that sounds like a wounded cub to lure a bear to her location, which she then promptly and with much exhilaration shoots with a crossbow. A moment later she excitedly poses with the freshly murdered bear while bragging about how she came across this opportunity while simply canoeing down the river, only by chance spotting the bear near the shoreline. I was unfortunately limited to the use of ALL CAPS in gchat with Elan to convey my fury.
Jewish tradition is patently clear on the abuse of animals. Humane and caring shepherds like Moses and Jacob go on to greatness, while hunters the likes of Esau are ruined. In the Book of Genesis, Abraham’s servant “tests” whether Rebecca is worthy to be the wife of Isaac by noting if, in addition to offering him (the servant) water, she also brings water for his thirsty camels. The proper treatment of animals is a barometer for the proper treatment of humans: one who is cruel to animals is assumed to also be callous to humans.
While the Bible permits human dominion over animals – using them for food, work, even clothing, and their skin to make the Torah parchment – the proscription against cruelty is reinforced again and again, as, indeed, is animal rights. Did you know that we are commanded to ensure our animals rest on Shabbat, to feed them before we feed ourselves, to prevent their psychological distress, and even to break Shabbat if it means saving an animal’s life?
If Melissa Bachman really appreciated the “beauty” of the lion she shot (as she posted on her Facebook page) she wouldn’t have shot it in the first place. Surely there are ways to appreciate the power and grace of a lion without killing it. Murdering a wild bear with a poisoned arrow doesn’t make you an outdoors enthusiast, doesn’t make you “hardcore”, and doesn’t demonstrate that you “truly love everything the outdoors has to offer” (all things she brags about on her various websites). As Elan points out in his petition, she is an “absolute contradiction to the culture of conservation” that South Africa exemplifies. Her website implores visitors to help her pursue her dream job. Seems to me that building a life around the willful, violent, hateful, and ruthless destruction of animals for sport is not a life worthy to dream of.
There are a lot of petitions out there in the world, and you can’t sign them all. But I hope you’ll sign this one: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-government-of-the-republic-of-south-africa-deny-future-entry-to-melissa-bachman.