It started in Texas. In late January, entrepreneur John Lockwood let a friend become the first "hunter" to kill a confined animal via computer. The friend, Howard Giles, sitting in his home office 45 miles from Lockwood's canned hunting ranch in the Texas Hill Country, squarely lined up the animal in his computer sights and clicked the mouse. A rifle mounted in a blind back on Lockwood's ranch then fired a bullet at a wild hog hunched over a feeding station. At that point a page should have popped up on Giles' computer screen: Fatality Not Found. According to news reports, Giles' remote-control shot hit the hog in the neck, wounding the animal. Lockwood, on site at the ranch, shot the animal two more times to kill him.
Welcome to the whacked-out world of Live-Shot.com, where you can 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. A March report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted that more than 350 people are already members of Live-Shot.com, each paying $14.95 a month (plus $5.95 per ten rounds of ammunition) to fire at inanimate targets. Joystick hunting costs considerably more—$300 per two hours, which doesn't include the price of the animal killed, the meat processing, taxidermy, and shipping. Live-Shot.com expects the second computer-assisted "hunt" to take place on April 9, by an Indiana man paralyzed from the neck down.
Just the possibility of desktop killing has united two groups that usually eyeball each other warily—humane advocates and hunters. State legislators are also setting their sights on Internet hunting. Even Live-Shot's home state has turned on it. Calling Internet hunting, "unnatural, unfair, and immoral," Rep. Todd Smith (R-Euless), introduced H.B. 2026, outlawing "computer-assisted remote hunting if the animal being hunted is located in this state." The bill was passed last June. But the Lone Star state wasn't alone in banning internet hunt. Not by a long shot.
The Live-Shot Heard 'Round the World
Live-Shot works like this: The prospective armchair sportsman signs up on the web site and pays a deposit and fees of more than $1,500 to schedule a session. (The final cost depends on the species and size of the animal killed and the cost of having the trophy mounted.) The hunter logs on again at the scheduled time and watches the feeding station on his computer screen. The animal ordered is present in the area, and when the creature approaches the food, the 'Net "hunter" uses his mouse to line the victim up in the on-screen crosshairs. A click of the mouse fires the rifle.
As with canned hunting in general, Live-Shot does not require the so-called hunter to possess any shooting skills, so the animal's death may be a drawn-out, agonizing one. Furthermore, there is no indication on the web site that the client must have a hunting license either in his or her own state or in Texas.
Animal advocates and hunters alike are outraged by this hi-tech atrocity. The National Rifle Association has come out strongly against Internet hunting. "The NRA believes the element of a fair chase is a vital part of the American hunting heritage," said spokesperson Kelly Hobbs. "Shooting an animal from three states away would not be considered a fair chase."
According to Kirby Brown, executive director of the pro-hunting Texas Wildlife Association, "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. It's off the ethical charts."
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, was speaking for everyone who cares about animals when he said, "This is a snuff film scenario in which animals will be senselessly killed for the voyeuristic pleasure of someone sitting at a keyboard. It is pay-per-view slaughter. This remotely delivered cruelty should be shut down and outlawed immediately."
A Landslide of Legislation
As of July 12, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia had signed into law bills banning internet hunting. Lawmakers in Alabama, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin also introduced bills to stop Internet hunting before it takes hold. The bills in Alabama and Illinois died, but the issue may be brought up again.
The federal government hasn't lagged too far behind in moving to block Internet hunts. Tom Davis (R-VA) recently introduced H.R. 1558, "because gun owners, hunters, animal rights organizations and more than a dozen state legislatures oppose online, computer-assisted hunting." H.R. 1558 would make participation in Internet hunting a felony. Pacelle sees federal legislation as essential: "The HSUS backs the bills at the state level, but the Congress must speak on this issue, since remote hunting involves the Internet and is therefore a matter of interstate commerce."
Launched last year, Live-Shot.com is the brainchild of Lockwood, a San Antonio body-shop estimator who claims he just wants to provide people with disabilities a chance to hunt. His altruistic talk conveniently sidesteps the ethical and moral issues of Internet hunting: Lockwood's real-life video game has real-life consequences for animals—and perhaps for people, if the remote-control rifle software lands in the wrong hands. But Live-Shot.com also lacks any sense of fair chase, and it does not impose any hardship on the hunter who can fire shot after shot with all the burden of booking airline tickets. This is disembodied killing in which the hunter experiences no consequences: He sees no blood, hears no cries, feels nothing but the joy of the kill, like a kid with a violent video game.
Remote-control hunting, after all, is not hunting at all. Like the video game Grand Theft Auto, Live-Shot.com turns the joystick into a deadly weapon. Unfortunately, the web site's victims are not cartoons.
Live Shot.com has quit advertising that you can kill live animals, but is talking about moving and we are concerned that it will be to a state with no ban on Internet Hunting.
That is why a Federal ban is so important.
The outcry against internet hunting has been heard. As of May 15, 2006, the following states have banned internet hunting:
Visit The Humane Society of the United States for more info on this topic.
December 6, 2007
The Humane Society of the United States Calls on Senate to Pass Whitehouse Bill and Prevent Pay-Per-View Slaughter
WASHINGTON – The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) today welcomed the introduction of federal legislation designed to crack down on Internet hunting. The Computer-Assisted Remote Hunting Act, introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), would prevent the operation of web sites that allow people to shoot live animals remotely.
The HSUS has advocated for state and federal legislation to combat Internet hunting since the launch of Live-Shot.com, a web site based in Texas that allowed users to pay a fee and shoot captive exotic animals on a fenced game ranch – simply by clicking a button on their keyboard or computer mouse. While 34 states have now banned the practice, the interstate nature of the Internet calls for a federal policy to prevent such web sites from emerging in the future.
"Internet hunting is an appalling form of trophy hunting, one that is opposed by sportsmen and animal welfare advocates alike," said Michael Markarian, HSUS executive vice president. "Traditional hunters know there's no sport in shooting an animal remotely while lying in bed and wearing camouflage pajamas. We urge lawmakers to quickly pass this bill into law and stop this egregious practice which amounts to nothing more than pay-per-view slaughter."
"There's no place in sportsmanship for a practice that kills with the click of a mouse," said Sen. Whitehouse, a member of the Senate committees on the Environment and Public Works and the Judiciary. "I'm proud that Rhode Island is among the states that have banned Internet hunting. It should never take place – and this bill will ensure it never does."
Sen. Whitehouse's legislation is co-sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). A House version of the bill, H.R. 2711, was introduced in June by Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Tom Davis (R-Va.), and is co-sponsored by some of the leading sportsmen's advocates in Congress, including Reps. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Mike Thompson (D-Ca.), and Don Young (R-Alaska).
A map of states that have banned Internet hunting is available at: