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.