Lawmakers from Augusta to Sacramento are locking and loading to shoot down a Web site that purports to let people hunt big game online. This topic has been heating up for more than a month after Texas-based Live-Shot.com opened for business, and is finally gaining front-burner status after a prominent Republican congressman introduced a bill to outlaw Internet hunting nationwide.
Explaining his bill, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said last week that "fair chase is a basic element of hunting. You have to be there, in the field, not sitting behind a computer screen."
Davis's views are shared across the country and across the partisan aisle. California State Sen. Debra Bowen (D) told Reuters that "Pay-per-view hunting doesn't meet any definition of 'sporting' that I've ever heard because there's nothing 'sporting' about sitting at your computer in your pajamas, using your mouse to shoot at hogs or antelope or any other animal that's halfway across the country."
But hold your fire, at least for a moment. People who don't hunt sometimes imagine all hunters as backwoods bubbas or weekend warriors from the city who can't shoot straight. In this situation, however, the poster-boy for the preservation of Live-Shot.com is Dale Hagberg, a 38-year-old quadriplegic who couldn't lift a rifle, let alone engage in "fair chase" in the field.
Hagberg, as the Los Angeles Times noted, worked a computer mouse with his mouth and tongue on Saturday, April 9, to shoot at an antelope on a game reserve near Boeme, Texas, while lying in bed in Ligonier, a town in northeastern Indiana.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Jay Root provided more details of how Live-Shot.com works: "The system is pretty simple. The remote hunter can zoom in and out of the target area by operating remote cameras and has a control panel with four arrows in a circle and a 'fire' button in the middle. With a few mouse clicks, the hunter can swivel and fire a Remington Model 742 .30-'06 mounted on a pan-tilt motor," Root reported. Of course, he noted, "there has to be something to fire at ... For several hours in the morning and evening Saturday, Lockwood scoured a small swath of a ranch near Guadalupe River State Park for any sign of the black buck that Hagberg paid $1,300 for. If [Hagberg] doesn't shoot the animal before the end of August, when his Texas hunting license expires, Lockwood said, he'll refund the money."
Dale plans to try again on Saturday, April 30, Dale's father Robert Hagberg told me in an interview this morning.
If 14 states and a flock of furious animal rights activists have their way, however, Hagberg and other would-be Internet hunters will be banished to video-game territory. Virginia already has banned online hunting, as has Tennessee. Similar efforts are afoot in Maine, California and Texas.
Lawmakers opposed to sites like Live-Shot.com have plenty of allies. UKPets.co.uk reported that Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle is asking Internet service providers to block access to the site, while the Los Angeles Times quotes Texas Wildlife Association Executive Vice President Kirby L. Brown as saying, "It's not hunting... It falls off of the end of the ethical chart."
The L.A. Times presented an interesting point of view from Dale Jamieson, an environmental studies and philosophy professor at New York University. He said that Live-Shot is "an understandable, if disturbing, extension of a computer society that produces games like 'Grand Theft Auto.' Jamieson: "If you look at this as being kind of a continuum or slippery slope ... you have people who enjoy the act of killing and destruction in video games, you have people who enjoy killing animals over the Internet. But of course the next step in this is that people start killing people over the Internet. That's the worry."