In my latest for The Guardian, I examine the backlash against hunter Melissa Bachman who killed a lion then posted a picture of her successful kill on social media. The backlash, more than the kill itself, worries me. That doesn’t mean I support hunting – I still don’t know my moral position on it – but it does confirm my worry over pile-ons, hate and indications of sexism that poisons much discussion of women on the Internet. The comments as always are the most interesting. Most are using the section as an outlet to express the very anger and hatred I’m targeting; others question how I can approve of something she did “for fun”; and of course more nuanced engagements about hunting.
The point is, I could be shown that hunting is wrong – in this or that case – but it won’t be done out of mere disgust or hatred of an individual. Further, even if the law must be changed due to the immorality of hunting, it should be changed because of rational argument premised on evidence, not outrage. If laws were made by levels of outrage, my country would not have legalised abortions or equal marriage.
Finally, many people seem to have a problem with Bachman taking pleasure out of her hunt. Some don’t appear to mind hunting for food, but hunting for fun is problematic. Motivations are morally problematic areas. For example, we wouldn’t consider a surgeon who saves lives to be doing something wrong just because she enjoys cutting and accomplishing puzzles more than saving lives; yet that’s the standard being proposed here (The show House, MD is basically all about this).
Hunting, as I say in the post, could actually be more beneficial legalised or even in itself (as in, hunters support the environment, too, etc.). Thus whether Bachman enjoyed her hunt is not the point: it’s whether hunting is good or harmful. Questioning and disliking her motivations and attitude is irrelevant.