Friday, February 09, 2007

A Hunting We Won't Go

Last month, a Massachusetts state senator, Robert Creedon of Brockton, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), filed a bill that would outlaw Internet hunting. In their announcement, the MSPCA wrote:

Already illegal in 22 states, this computer-assisted form of hunting operates like a game but kills real animals. The “hunter” pays a fee to watch a feeding station on their computer screen. When an animal appears on screen the hunter can point and shoot a remotely-operated rifle with a click of their mouse.

What's interesting is that the practice is opposed not just in the expected settings - touchy-feely urban bi-coastal places - but in states where there are likely proportionately more people who are hunters and gun owners - places like West Virginia and Georgia . "Computer-assisted remote hunting" is also opposed and by the NRA itself. (Well, I never imagined I'd ever be writing these words but, I'm with NRA on this one.)

Talk about something that doesn't seem quite sporting, and makes a blood sport - with all that it implies, pro and con - and neutralizes it into something quite bloodless.

I've never gone hunting, and have no intention of starting anytime soon. The closest I've ever come to a gun is the downstairs bathroom of my husband's aunt and uncle's, where Uncle Bill - who, in his day had been a hunter - kept a shotgun at the ready to blast away at the squirrels raiding Aunt Carrie's bird feeders. And I didn't like it one little bit. I was always worried that I was somehow going to knock the shotgun over and blow my head off while I was flushing the toilet. (It must have made Carrie nervous, too, because she got rid of the gun after Bill died.)

Still, I can easily see how the sport has its appeal. The camaraderie, the (mostly) male-bonding, the cold, the boredom, the swigs of whiskey from the hip flask, the thrill of the hunt (and, yes, the kill), the frisson that something could happen. (Hey, you could even get buck-shot in the face by the VP.)

I eat meat. I wear leather shoes. How is the six-degrees of separation I have from the slaughter of the steer and the entire production process of the hamburger morally superior to someone killing a duck or a deer, cleaning it, and eating it?  Well - unless it's hunting with Uzis on an over-stocked, no-miss game preserve -  it's not.  Or over the Internet.

 Come on.

Killing from the desktop? What kind of hunting is that? I find it completely chilling and bloodless. And, apparently, there's some greater risk of suffering to the animals with this mode of hunting. In "real live" hunting, the hunters have a better chance of getting off a clean shot and of humanely finishing off the animal if they don't. Then there's the - however remote - possibility that the great remote hunter could shoot an employee of the Internet hunting range who happens to get between the gun and the target. Yes, of course, this can happen with "real live" hunting. (VP Cheney, et al.) But just the thought of being able to accidentally kill someone 1000 miles away, where you're in no position to run over and try to staunch the blood flow or save his life?  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Just another way in which the Internet changes everything, I suppose, but this one was decidedly not for the better. I hope that Massachusetts joins the 22 other enlightened states who've put the kibosh on this form of hunting.

But it certainly seems as if there is no end to the type of wacko businesses that the Internet continues to engender.

What's interesting, however, is that Live-Shot, the ur-company of th computer-assisted remote hunting industry (if there can be said to be one) that seemed to have  precipitated the firestorm around remote hunting a couple of years ago, seems to be no longer among the living.

It just may be that there aren't enough remote-hunters out there, and that "real hunters" want to give our furry friends more of a sporting chance.

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