April 22, 2005
MacMillan on Internet Hunting
Robert MacMillan at the Washington Post weighs in on anti-Internet hunting laws. He reaches the sensible conclusion that “using a broadband connection to bag game isn't any better or worse than doing it in person.”
In the course of doing so, MacMillan references an LA Times editorial by Dale Jamieson, who made a jaw-droppingly asinine “slippery slope” argument: “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.”
No, that’s not the worry, at least not among hunters, animal rights activists or anyone else whose logic I respect. Animal rights activists generally object to all hunting, so Internet hunting is just another objectionable variation. For hunters, Internet hunting denigrates the psychological dynamics of why hunting matters to them. Hunting is about bravado/ego and power, a way of measuring cojones and satisfying a god complex. Thus, I think hunters oppose Internet hunting because it reduces the impressiveness of in-person hunting and democratizes the power to dispense death.
Meanwhile, I’m not sure whether remote-controlled hunting or in-person hunting is more susceptible to the slippery slope argument. What is more troubling—killing an animal remotely or while watching the victim up-close-and-personal, close enough to sense any suffering, close enough smell the blood? It seems to me that a person who can kill "for fun" while experiencing these senses is at least as comfortable ignoring the collateral implications of their actions than someone engaged in point-and-click hunting.
My goal isn’t specifically to rail against hunting generally. I don’t hunt and I hope my children will never do so either, but I’m not advocating that we outlaw it either. Instead, I reject the hypocrisy of finding unique ethical challenges in Internet hunting. The fact that some hunters, animal rights activists and commentators have embraced, and tried to rationalize, this hypocrisy is analytically amusing and emotionally dispiriting.
Posted by Eric at April 22, 2005 05:37 PM | Vegetarian
Before I start this comment, I want to state that I absolutely respect the opinions and beliefs of vegetarians. I, too, have found that “finding unique ethical challenges in Internet hunting” challenging, and thus, thoroughly enjoyed this post.
However, I found the “[h]unting is about…” statement to be problematic. For example, I grew up in a rural area and state where many people hunted. Although I did see some people hunt partially for a bravado/cajones/power/god reason, I do not believe that most people hunt with that purpose and/or state of mind. (Of course, I am ignoring subconscious thought and probably all the literature that states that hunting has to do with X).
Simply put, hunting to many of the people from my hometown and myself is a just another sport, like basketball, baseball or soccer. The “[h]unting is about…” statement seemed to say that the only reason people hunt is bravado, etc. My point is that there is bravado, etc. involved in all sports, including hunting, but those reasons are surely not the only reasons people play sports, including hunting.
Furthermore, this post pushed me to reevaluate my purpose to hunt. I thought about it for a long time (I had a long drive last weekend), and I do not think it has anything to do with bravado, etc. Maybe the subconscious seeds were planted a long time ago…
(i wish I knew how to create paragraph breaks)
Matt, I appreciate your thoughts, and I know that I took an aggressive position. I also know that people have heterogeneous motivations, so a single characterization of motives is incomplete.
However, if hunters truly looked at hunting JUST as a sport, then why would they care if other "hunters" participated in the sport using different rules? In other words, the just-a-sport explanation does not come close to explaining the outrage that hunters feel towards Internet hunting, nor would it explain why this issue is bubbling to the top of legislators' priority lists.
For example, soccer can be played indoor or outdoor. If it's played indoors, the venue can put into place walls that keep the ball inbounds. Does this significantly change the sport of soccer? Yes. Does Congress need to outlaw using walls around a soccer field? That question is silly.
So why the difference with Internet hunting? It may not have all of the attributes of the sport of hunting, but so what? Something else must be at the root of the outrage. So let me try a different question on you. If hunting is just a sport, why the hunter outrage and the derailment of legislative agendas?
Posted by: Eric Goldman at April 26, 2005 10:23 AM