Tuesday, August 16, 2005

LiveShot Internet "hunting" draws fire from hunters and Humane Society

Entrepreneur John Lockwood, blessed with an abundance of exotic animals on his Texas ranch, and computer skills looking for a venue, thought one day, "How can a disabled person partake of the thrill of a hunt?" This, he claims, was part of the concept behind Live-Shot, a site that combines web-cams, remote-controlled rifle firing at "reactive targets," and the presence of on-site personnel for safety and control.

In case you don't know what a "reactive target" might be, The Humane Society of the United States is happy to tell you: it's a live animal enticed into range of the computered-controlled rifles by a feeding station. What Live-Shot offers is, technically, a canned hunt.

Maybe you can see the appeal of this. As Lockwood explains in the first FAQ on his site,
Is this like playing a video game?
No, this is real. What you see on your screen thru the camera is what is there. When you activate the fire control, you are sending a signal to the firing mechanism which discharges a round. You control the camera and firearm.

According to the Humane Society, however, what Live-Shot offers is the chance to "kill a captive exotic animal from the comfort of your living room. By turning a computer into a deadly weapon, Live-Shot.com has created trophy hunting without the fuss and muss of having to hunt at all."

Curiously, the National Rifle Association and several pro-hunting organizations agree. The NRA has come out strongly against Internet hunting. "The element of a fair chase is a vital part of the American hunting heritage," said NRA spokesperson Kelly Hobbs. "Shooting an animal from three states away would not be considered a fair chase."

Kirby Brown, executive director of the pro-hunting Texas Wildlife Association, also was appalled. "The idea of sitting at a computer screen playing a video game and activating a remote-controlled firearm to shoot an animal is not hunting," Brown said. "It's off the ethical charts."

Legislators in 17 states (including Texas) have already banned or are moving to ban Internet hunts, and measures have also been introduced at the federal level, in the Senate by Frank Lautenburg (D-NJ—the "Sportsmanship in Hunting Act of 2005"), and in the House by Tom Davis (R-VA—the "Computer-Assisted Remote Hunting Act"). H.R. 1558, which would make participation in Internet hunting a felony, is the right step, Davis said, "because gun owners, hunters, animal rights organizations and more than a dozen state legislatures oppose online, computer-assisted hunting."

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