Rebecca Francis' "Hunting Selfies" Of Her Standing Over A Dead Giraffe Have Sparked Outrage On Social Media — PHOTOS

Utah native Rebecca Francis is a 41-year-old mother of eight and an avid hunter. Crowned the first winner of the reality show Extreme Huntress in 2010, Francis has been under fire this week for posting “hunting selfies,” photos of her smiling with exotic animals she’s killed. An image of Francis posing with the carcass of a giraffe caught the eye of English comedian Ricky Gervais, who promptly tweeted the image to his followers with the comment, “What must've happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal & then lie next to it smiling?” Cue internet outrage. This isn’t the first time that hunters posting selfies with their kills has stirred controversy: Last year, Texan teenager Kendall Jones raised the Internet’s ire after posting pictures of herself with dead lions, rhinos, hippopotami, and other wildlife. The intense debate surrounding both Jones and Francis, with animal rights activists on one side and hunting enthusiasts on the other, raising questions, not only about the ethics of hunting, but about how images of hunted animals should be used and distributed.

Gervais, no stranger to controversy himself, tweeted one of Francis’s photos on April 13:

His tweet has since been retweeted almost 30 thousand times, with hundreds of Twitter users expressing their disgust and anger. Responses range from the angry to the obscene, and, because this is the Internet, some users have directly and indirectly threatened Francis with harm.

Francis responded to the controversy in a statement to HuntingLife.com

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.

It might seem counterintuitive, but hunting can play a legitimate role in animal conservation: A study cited by National Geographic in 2007 showed that tourists bring over $200 million into African countries that allow sport hunting, money that supports private hunting operations that, in turn, manage significant portions of land. It’s in these operations’ best interest to maintain their animal populations. Although overhunting has led to the endangerment of many species, the article points out that hunting has also been a catalyst for the conservation and reintroduction of species like the white rhino, the cape mountain zebra, and the black wildebeest.

However, although there are valid reasons for killing certain animals, like illness or overpopulation, those reasons don’t excuse images that seem to glorify the killing of those animals. Everyone will have their own reactions to Francis’s “hunting selfies,” but for me, the real problem with the photos is not so much the presence of the dead animals (I’m not saying that Francis’s killings are justified, just that there could be situations in which hunting is necessary); the part that makes my stomach churn is the smile on her face. It's the same gleeful look people wear when posing next to wax figures of celebrities at Madame Tussaud’s, as if the animal on the ground were a prop and not a creature that had still been alive an hour before. Even if there is a justification for conscientious hunting in some circumstances, there's nothing tasteful or respectful about gleefully reveling in the death of any creature—and that seems to be what is outraging people most of all.

Image: Getty Images; Rebecca Francis/Facebook(2)