A female game hunter who found herself in the sights of animal-lover Ricky Gervais has accused the comedian of using his “power and influence” to target women in her industry and of sparking a raft of death and rape threats against her and her family.
Rebecca Francis received the threats after he tweeted a five-year-old picture of her posing next to a dying giraffe she had felled to his 7.5m followers.
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?”
Francis insisted she did not regret the killing and writes passionately about her hunting career on her website, listing bears, wildebeest, moose, zebra and lynx among her kills.
Gervais responded by sarcastically tweeting: “After killing that giraffe out of the kindness of her heart and feeding the poor locals she had these for pudding.” The tweet was accompanied by images of the grinning grandmother-of-nine astride a lion and a brown bear she had also killed.
And in the last case, it was met with a stream of death threats and abuse directed at Francis.
Now Francis has hit back at the comedian’s goading with a strongly worded statement in which she accuses him of specifically targeting female hunters with his vitriol and of personally sparking “thousands of people to call for my death, the death of my family and many other women who hunt.”
In the statement posted on the Facebook page of HuntingLife.com, she said: “It shocks me that people who claim to be so loving and caring for animals can turn around and threaten to murder and rape my children. Where is the logic in that?”
But Francis, who won the reality TV show Extreme Huntress in 2010, stood firm, vowing: “I am proud to call myself a hunter. I am proud to be a woman in the hunting industry. I am proud to be a mother. I will never apologize for these things.”
She added: “I repeat I will never apologise for being a woman who hunts as I know that my passion for hunting and conservation is making a direct difference on the ground for wildlife.”
The full text of Francis's statement:
“I feel it is my obligation on behalf of myself as well as my fellow hunters to respond to the mass criticism I have received over this issue.
“I don’t claim to be a game biologist and do not intend to argue specifics about the undeniable necessity of game management to promote the conservation and preservation of animals. There is no question that hunters contribute the most to the welfare of wildlife. I believe in the right to hunt. I believe that hunters promote wildlife more than any other source. However, whether hunting is right or wrong is no longer the issue at hand. Ricky Gervais has used his power and influence to specifically target women in the hunting industry and has sparked thousands of people to call for my death, the death of my family and many other women who hunt.
"This has evolved into an issue about the morality of threatening human lives over disagreeing with someone else’s beliefs. It shocks me that people who claim to be so loving and caring for animals can turn around and threaten to murder and rape my children. Where is the logic in that? In a country that was created on freedom of beliefs, it is hard to comprehend that people are so intolerant of each other that they promote vile, disgusting, and explicit ways to invoke death upon others.
"I am proud to call myself a hunter. I am proud to be a woman in the hunting industry. I am proud to be a mother. I will never apologize for these things. Hunting is a way of life I have known since birth, and I have experienced first hand all of the good that comes from it. Hunters will continue to unite to educate those who do not have a clear understanding of role of hunting in wildlife management. Hunting has been crucial to the balance of nature since the beginning of time, and it is even more crucial today.
"I repeat I will never apologize for being a woman who hunts as I know that my passion for hunting and conservation is making a direct difference on the ground for wildlife."