A hunter who was singled out for criticism by comedian Ricky Gervais after she posed grinning next to a dying giraffe has robustly defended her actions.
Rebecca Francis, who won the reality TV show Extreme Huntress in 2010, was pictured lying on her back next to the animal she had killed in Africa.
Tweeting the image to his 7.1million followers, animal-loving Gervais asked: “What must’ve happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal and then lie next to it smiling?”
At time of publication, the 2010 image had been retweeted more than 21,000 times and Francis, who favours hunting with a bow and arrow, was the recipient of a barrage of abuse, including death threats.
Francis, a grandmother-of-nine who describes hunting as her "passion", proudly writes on her website: “We hunt elk and deer every year without fail, even through pregnancy and nursing babies.
“I prefer bowhunting and the animals I’ve taken with a bow include: a 10.15ft brown bear, black bear, shiras moose, Alaskan moose, dall sheep, stone sheep, desert bighorn ram, rocky mountain bighorn ram, mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, mountain goat, antelope, arapawa ram, kudu, zebra, black wildebeest, giraffe, springbuck, blesbuck, lynx, badger and squirrel.
“I have also taken out may of the same species and more with a rifle.”
And the mother-of-five, whose Facebook profile lists her as a "public figure", has responded to the attacks – in a statement issued via HuntingLife.com – in which she inferred she had put the lonely “old bull giraffe” out of his misery because he had been kicked out of his herd.
Francis, who is pictured in a further frame standing by the dying animal with a weapon, also claimed she had been asked to kill the animal in order to provide food to locals and that she "chose to honour his life by providing others with his uses."
Francis's full statement:
"When I was in Africa five years ago I was of the mindset that I would never shoot a giraffe. I was approached toward the end of my hunt with a unique circumstance. They showed me this beautiful old bull giraffe that was wandering all alone. He had been kicked out of the herd by a younger and stronger bull. He was past his breeding years and very close to death. They asked me if I would preserve this giraffe by providing all the locals with food and other means of survival. He was inevitably going to die soon and he could either be wasted or utilized by the local people. I chose to honor his life by providing others with his uses and I do not regret it for one second. Once he was down there were people waiting to take his meat. They also took his tail to make jewelry, his bones to make other things, and did not waste a single part of him. I am grateful to be a part of something so good."
Comments left underneath suggest Francis's statement has not defused the situation, with Craig Oliver pointing out: "Personally I don't see how she could stand at the side of the animal with a big smile on her face. Even if she did do it for a favour, she's posing like she has a trophy!"
HuntingLife.com, which describes Francis as a "hunter/ conservationist", responded: "To a hunter every animal they take cleanly and ethically is a trophy and a memory that will last forever. We are a prideful human species and we have been documenting our hunts for the last 75,000 years in petroglyphs and not in photographs. Nothing has changed."
Gervais, for his part, has continued to tweet his distaste about the matter, urging people to follow @VETPAW who protect African wildlife from poachers and stating: "The West African Black Rhino has been officially declared extinct. it was hunted for its horn. Shame on our species."