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May 09, 2005

Comments

1.

I've heard a few arguments that would support hunting but not support online hunting.

One of the more prevalent is site safety via situational awareness. Players of First Person Shooters may think that current games adequately represent the environment, but a live-hunting environment offers many more sensory feeds that are critical to identifying the timing and safety of every shot. Live-fire environments give a wider field of vision and more comprehensive audio input. Heck, even the feel of the wind on the exposed skin can tell you something about how to place your shot. Compare this to the tunnel vision of a computer monitor.

The LAG alone- as minimal as it may be- can be a significant safety issue. How much time elapses between the optimal sighting of the target through the webcam, the display on the user’s screen, his decision to fire, and the transmission of the shot back to the gun.

Safety aside, there is also a significant hunter’s responsibility that can require immediate onsite action. I’ve seen spent cartridges cause dry leaves to smoulder- the hunter is responsible for insuring the safety of his action, but he wouldn’t be present to prevent a fire. Live-action hunters also confirm their shots, and if the creature is alive, insure that it suffers as little as possible by finishing the kill. Proper carcass disposal is another hunter’s responsibility.

Many of these issues can be minimized through comprehensive regulation of the hunting site, but interstate boundaries complicate these efforts at the moment. If there is an accidental killing, property damage, or some obscure violation of hunting policy, where does the responsibility lie? Facility or virtual hunter?

It can seem better (to some) to simply prohibit the practice until the law has an opportunity to catch up to the technology, particularly if the practice has questionable social merits anyway.

2.

When online hunting is outlawed, only outlaws will hunt online.

3.

It seems to me that we are already divorced enough from the realities of how we get food on our tables without applying this divide to hunting as well.

As well, hunters who are chasing on site may become sensitized to such issues as loss of terrain, pollution, or diminishing wildlife. Indeed, birdwatchers can be grateful to Ducks Unlimited, an association of duck hunters who have been working hard to re-establish the wetlands necessary for the survival of ducks and, incidentally, many other species.

Come on, let's turn off the computer once in a while and go outside!

4.

I see no argument that supports hunting but not hunting this way, particularly as this allows the disabled to participate in hunting as well. All the concerns about clean kills, safety, discarded shells starting brushfires and such are irrelevant here, as there's a live person standing next to the mechanism that does the shooting, watching for that kind of thing. It's probably a lot safer than normal hunting too, as you can't just wander around pointing your gun at whatever you feel like pointing it at - none of the drunken hunter jackasses that I used to see so often during deer season growing up in Wisconsin.

--matt

5.

Matt,

I hadn't thought of the "accessibility" benefit of this, but I wouldn't overemphasize this element. In my area, we've developed a considerable number of wheelchair-enabled places- from "rails to trails" conversion of low-grade old train paths to paved trails to chair-accessible fishing platforms. Many on-site "hunting ranges" offer some degree of assisted hunting for the chair-bound or controlled environments to offset the safety hazards of those with some degree sensory impairment.

These sites offer a closer association to the "real thing" than internet-based systems and can often do so with less cost than an Internet-enabled system that had a "live person standing next to the mechanism."

As for the "live person-" it is true that the range getting all the attention is indeed proposing such a controlled system. However, there is no requirement that this be the case. It's possible for less reputable organizations to set up less safe environments. State legislatures can't regulate beyond their borders, but they can regulate whether their residents can participate in a potentially-dangerous unregulated activity.

I'm not arguing for regulation or prohibition, but I can see how such a system, with limited merits, potential hazards, low accountability, and jurisdictional issues, may be reasonably barred by states not ready to tackle the tough issue of insuring their safety.

6.

There was a bit on the evening (local) news about this website a few weeks ago. An area man is a quadrapelegic (sp) and wanted to use the site to still be able to hunt. Local animal rights activists freaked.

Suffice it to say, since the gun only pans slightly, and because a clean shot/kill is necessary, the guy didn't shoot a thing over the course of two days. But it gave him some of the feeling of hunting, which seemed to make him happy.

7.

Leaving aside the moral objections (and possibly being immoral in doing so), why is this "hunting"? Where is the hunt aspect? Hunting seems to me to imply some kind of search. This has the killing part, but not the search part.

A game where you shoot game. Add dice and it would need a gaming licence. No wonder our kind of "game" has a bad press...

Richard

8.

> is there an argument that supports hunting but does not support this form of hunting?

This is execution for entertainment, closer to trophy hunting. Hunting strictly for trophies and not using the meat is an activity in which only a small minority of hunters engage. Responsible hunters eat what they kill.

So you should probably ask a different question: "Is there an argument that supports animal execution for entertainment that does not support other forms, such as dogfighting and cockfighting?"

The answer is, no, there isn't. We have laws against this type of morally reprehensible entertainment and should never make the mistake of confusing this with moral and responsible hunting.

9.

i was wondering when someone would post this -- the site/service itself has been around for awhile.

i agree with p. ludow's sentiment -- if you ban this in every state of the union, it will show up in the rest of the free world, to more popularity/success because it has been made illegal.

as for "how is this hunting" -- how is fishing hunting, when the fish don't fight back... or how is "hunting" hunting -- paying someone to kill animals (which don't fight/shoot back) on a closed property while mobile or immobile (camo tarps/tents) already exists. all this does is add the added challenge of latency.

i will go and say: this is merely duck hunt online, people. if you put aside morality and look at it from game mechanics, it nothing more.

the real reason why people are up in arms is that sport hunting is already a dubious pasttime. removing the necessity of physical participation is just the final straw that will offend even most bloodied game hunters.

i do think this is another step toward the blurring of digital and flesh. user input -> digital action -> flesh reaction. its similar to teledildonics, but more easily converted into a game.

10.

if you put aside morality and look at it from game mechanics

The current game industry in a nutshell.

11.

Thank you, galiel and axcleaver.

There is such a thing as ethics, even online, and even for the disabled.

There can be arguments that seem to blur the ethical issues (wheelchairs and unarmed fish) but most everyone understands that execution, as Axecleaver so bluntly put it, is neither sporting nor moral.

"All this does" is give someone the pleasure of pulling the trigger and killing a living creature in pure and absolute disconnection from that creature's actual existence. It is a universe away from real hunting and fishing, even of the closed property/trophy sort. It has more in common with that famous footage of the excited pilot in Iraq bombing the people running across the street. Those were people; these are animals. Is that a big enough difference to dismiss it? To make it just another step in the "blurring" or digital and flesh? What is pain, real physical pain and death? Do we think we don't need to know the difference anymore?

I will, with some reluctance, go along with all the apologies for games like GTA as being merely "fun." But when I see a couple of the dismissive posts in this thread, it makes me wonder if that attitude is not numbing some of us beyond the point of no return.

12.

Well before I start a flame war, let me add that on re-reading, other posters were not "dismissive" and that was a poor term to use. However, in my mind, this is where gamers and everyone should draw the line. Fine--shoot, kill, rape, sh*t and swear, as long as it's all in pixels. When something living gets hurt, then the moral line in the sand has been crossed, and ethical people should condemn it.

13.

Richard wrote:

Leaving aside the moral objections (and possibly being immoral in doing so), why is this "hunting"? Where is the hunt aspect? Hunting seems to me to imply some kind of search. This has the killing part, but not the search part.

I'm guessing you're not a hunter then. ;)

Many kinds of hunting involve waiting for the game to come to you: Much deer hunting, for instance, and most duck and goose hunting.

--matt

14.

Matt Mihaly>I'm guessing you're not a hunter then. ;)

You're right, I'm not. It's pretty much illegal in Britain anyway.

Here, we make a distinction between hunting, shooting and fishing (or "huntin' shootin' and fishin'"). Hunting is where you go out looking for something to kill, shooting is where you wait for it to come to you, and fishing is where you use a rod and line to catch fish. Collectively, they're known as "blood sports".

Hunting might include trapping, but killing a trapped animal for fun wouldn't be any kind of "sport".

Richard

15.

Not to start a whole 'slippery slope' argument, but Richard has an interesting point - we're starting to get into a place where the connectivity allowable via the Internet can really provoke cross-jurisdictional challenges in law.

Imagine if you will a wealthy game executive who, after being pink-slipped from his current company, decides to put together 'The Most Dangerous Online Game' - he purchases and develops an anonymous South Pacific island, contracts with totalitarian regimes to have them ship over a supply of death-row inmates (and I'm not automatically leaving the U.S. out of this possible supply; at least not under the current administration), then opens up a website where you can 'hunt' these convicted criminals online. Would you play that game?

I can think of at least two folks I consider friends who would respond, "Hell, yeah!" Maybe that says more about me and my friends than about the morality of such a pastime, but still...

16.

there are only a limited number of moral paths one can take here.

1. killing animals is okay. therefore, killing animals online is okay.
2. killing animals is not okay. therefore, killing animals online is not okay.
3. killing animals is okay, except when they're killed online.

stances 1 and 2 sound viable to me. stance 3 is the one bandied by lawmakers bent on banning this practice, and it's one that makes no sense to me.

either providing a service for killing animals for sport is legal/moral, or it is illegal/immoral. my point being, why does the simple fact that the gunner is using a mouse button instead of a gun trigger make the act illegal?

very dangerous ground here, people. moral legislation covering the flesh world effects of digital world actions.

jj> i understand your stance, but my true personal opinion is that all kinds of sport hunting are morally reprehensible, online or offline. if laws ban this service, laws must equally ban current conventional sport hunting as well. then again, i'm against moral legislation in general, especially when it cannot be enforced.

re:gta> there is something to be said for the massive popularity of a game world built around the destruction of social taboos. obviously, a very large number of people connect to it, want it. therefore, it is beneficial to society, even while glorifying socially reprehensible bahavior.

david> hunting people is fine, if they're willing participants. e.g. paid very well, and/or have the opportunity to kill the 'hunter' and win. otherwise, it's just premeditated murder.

why is hunting and killing a human murder, and hunting and killing an antelope sport? shrug. that's our society, folks.

17.

> why is hunting and killing a human murder, and hunting and killing an antelope sport?

I think it has something to do with the fact that, when hunting humans, the hunter and the hunted are the same species.

18.

hikaru>there are only a limited number of moral paths one can take here.

There is only a limited number, yes, but it's more than three. The reason why killing animals is OK could be linked to whether killing animals over the Internet is OK. Example: if killing animals is OK only if you eat them afterwards, then killing them over the Internet is only OK if the site owners ship you the carcass afterwards.

Richard

19.

Richard wrote:

Here, we make a distinction between hunting, shooting and fishing (or "huntin' shootin' and fishin'"). Hunting is where you go out looking for something to kill, shooting is where you wait for it to come to you, and fishing is where you use a rod and line to catch fish. Collectively, they're known as "blood sports".

Hunting might include trapping, but killing a trapped animal for fun wouldn't be any kind of "sport".

Hunting isn't a sport. If people were sporting about it, they'd go out with no projectile weapons and try to kill some animals. Calling a guy with a gun vs. a freaking herbivore "sport" or even a carnivore scared out of its wits (essentially describing all targets in the land animal world) is a bit of a joke. Having said that, I have no problem with any of it. I like to eat animals and someone has to kill them if I'm going to chow down. It's just not going to be me doing the dirty work.

--matt

20.

I guess I was too broad when used the term ‘hunting’. However I think that the subsequent debate has unearthed some interesting distinctions that people make when trying to square activities with their moral intuitions.

Killing for food
As Richard points out it’s the online game can satisfy this condition by simply shipping the carcass to the hunter. Or they could ensure that all killed meat was put into the food chain some how.

- The moral step here seems to be that the killing is no long just for fun, that it has some practical utility. Though when food is plentifully available in stores this does seem to be some what of a moral bandage – what is it about one use of the corpse over another when all uses seem to be to satisfy a want rather than a need?

Killing for sport
The sport distinction is another interesting one. What do we mean by it exactly? Is it that there is a certain probability that the prey will get away? Is it a use of skill?

Again we can contrast two circumstances, one the hunter that has to track trough the artic, live out on the ice for days and suffer before they have a chance of shooting an animal (assuming here that they just do this for fun and do not eat it) vs the one that simply straps explosive charges onto them and presses ‘bang’ when they want to them to die. It seems that we weigh the nobility of human effort and suffering against the death.

Presumably here we are taking the moral ideal concept of play or more to the point sport i.e. that it is an activity that is ennobling to the human spirit, and doing some kind of unconscious utilitarian sum (probably here we would give more points to things that a cute and fluffy and less to, say, slugs).

In the internet game I referenced there certainly could be some notion of sport as shooting using a screen, with the delay that the internet introduces could conceivably make it quite hard to kill – sure this is not necessarily the case but it could be, though if it were I’m not sure it would ease many people’s qualms.

Anti-pathetic argument
I wonder if what is going on with a lot of people is that hunting via the net is anti-pathetic. That is, the mediation emotionally distances us form the prey and that for hunting to be moral there the hunter should feel an emotional connection with the hunted, there should be a thrill (though not too much) or pity or something, the detachment of click-death seems wrong.

Hence one argument for hunting but against click-hunting is that lack of connection between humanity and the environment is in someway harmful to the notion of the flourishing of a good life. Though, put this way, the argument is highly extensible to many aspects of modern life – maybe it should be, maybe this is one of the roots of much modern disquiet.

21.

ren> the hunter should feel an emotional connection with the hunted

I think that's a good point. My father, a lifelong hardcore game hunter, taught me that an animal's life is a gift that the animal gives to you. It is your responsibility to use that gift wisely.

Richard> if killing animals is OK only if you eat them afterwards, then killing them over the Internet is only OK if the site owners ship you the carcass afterwards.

I thought about how I'd feel about this and decided that I'd be uneasy but OK with that arrangement. I'm uneasy because of what ren brought up: there should be a connection between hunter and prey that would be lost in this sort of activity.

Donation to a food bank would be OK too. This happens in my hometown, where out-of-state deer hunters pay to have the meat butchered and then donated to a food bank rather than see it wasted.

22.

Axecleaver wrote:

I think that's a good point. My father, a lifelong hardcore game hunter, taught me that an animal's life is a gift that the animal gives to you. It is your responsibility to use that gift wisely.

Uh. What? I think your father smoked the peace pipe a bit to much. The animal isn't giving you anything. It's doing its best to get away from you, because it doesn't want to be slaughtered.

--matt

23.

Ren wrote:

That is, the mediation emotionally distances us form the prey and that for hunting to be moral there the hunter should feel an emotional connection with the hunted, there should be a thrill (though not too much) or pity or something, the detachment of click-death seems wrong.

Yeah, that's what I said. ;P Only it's not the thrill, etc. that makes it moral. It's a down-and-dirty exposure to blood and death, to know what you have DONE. Even the creep who shot my friend's dog at least had to hear the yelp right there in his own ears, and then listen to her scream at him to his face.

If you hunt for reasons other than survival, then you must--to retain a simple connection to the magnitude of what you are doing--you must hear, smell, touch, skin, tie up hooves, drag the weight behind you, as humans have always had to do (up until just a few years before the invention of the internet.) This was a living thing you personally killed. It felt the pain, it was afraid. If you hunt for survival, you know all this, which is part of why so many primitive cultures have elaborate rituals surrounding prey and hunting.

I am not a hunter, but I grew up on a farm. I love and respect animals, but I'm not sentimental about the inherent cruelty of life. This is not an issue of whether or not it's morally ok to kill animals. It's an issue of becoming more and more like the machines we are trying so hard to make like ourselves, of losing the sense that what we do has real impact in a real world. This is an issue of human survival, in the long run. It's way more important than gold farming. The farther we let ourselves get from reality, hiding behind our screens, the harder reality is going to bite us.

Getting to sit behind a desk and kill something for the fun of it is, I repeat, morally reprehensible. I don't think this should neccessary be made illegal, but it should be scorned.

24.

Ren>It seems that we weigh the nobility of human effort and suffering against the death.

Well, that's if we weigh the death at all.

Let's suppose that instead of having this "hunting" game shoot passing game, it's set up in a slaughterhouse. The bolt gun used to kill cattle is set up in a fixed position, and when a bullock walks up to it you press the button and THUNK! One dead bullock. The principle is the same, the bullock was going to die that day anyway, it's destined for the table (or, if a little ropey, the pet bowl), and there's skill involved in pressing the button at just the right time. Is this the same game as the one in Texas? Or is it a different game? Would the same people play it? If not, why not?

Richard

25.

Richard > and there's skill involved in pressing the button at just the right time.

Feeling might differ on what the consequences of pressing the button at the wrong time were. If the animal is maimed and left to bleed to death then there might be few takers, if it meant that the bolt was not activated and the animal got to live in a happy home where it could run free and wild etc, then there might be.

>Is this the same game as the one in Texas?
Formally, it depends on the probability of kill and the probability of death I would think i.e. does it take a lot less skill to time the button pressing, is there aiming involved etc; do the animals in Texas get to really escape.

>Or is it a different game?
See above, though I think that they could both be made into formally the same game.

>Would the same people play it? If not, why not?
Even if the formal stuff is tweaked the Texan game provides enough visual clues to simulate hunting and all its associated cultural stuff (at least for some) the Slaughterhouse Cow on the other hand does not.

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