Computerized Canned Hunts: Fact Or Sham?
Remember the Bonsai Kitten website? It featured photos of kittens crammed into glass jars or vases to contort their bodies into the contour of the container. The site was eventually exposed as the sick fantasy of someone skilled in Photoshop editing software. Demented, but a hoax. A possible new hoax--linked to the creator of the Bonsai Kitten site--is equally deranged [*See astute analysis from Merritt Clifton, toward end]. John Underwood's http://www.Live-shot.com, a site that lets web surfers slaughter wild, confined animals with the click of their mouse. "The animals will either come passing by to feed or to water," Lockwood told San Antonio reporters in Web Surfers Will Soon Hunt Wild Game Online (11/19/04). The hunts purportedly allow shooters to maneuver a camera with pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities, along with a gun to fire at real targets in real time.
A Washington DC article [11-18-04] says the southwest Texas rancher built a "platform for a rifle and camera that can be remotely aimed on his 330 acre ranch by anyone on the Internet anywhere in the world. [ http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/nov2004/2004-11-18-09.asp#anchor2]
"He already offers target practice with a .22 calibre rifle via the Internet but he wants to allow visitors to his site to shoot living deer, antelope and wild pigs. The only thing in his way is a slow Internet connection to his remote ranch.
"Underwood says an attendant would retrieve the shot animals for the shooters, who could have the heads preserved by a taxidermist. They could also have the meat processed and shipped home, or donated."
Last Thursday morning, (11/18/04) Today Show's Matt Lauer interviewed Underwood. Whether fact or fiction, Today Show's willingness to give this slimebag a forum to promote cyber canned hunts is shocking. When Underwood described his site as a charitable option for disabled hunters, Lauer agreed it would be regrettable if disabled killers could not hunt. The piece seemed to showcase this nifty option for sport hunters, with no input from humane advocates or a discussion of ethics.
Who finds computerized canned hunts repulsive or worrisome (besides you)?
1.) Humane Society of the United States and Fund for Animals: [11/17/04, http://www.fund.org/library/documentViewer.asp?ID=1664&table=documents%0A]
According to news sources in Washington, both groups want the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to regulate hunting of non-native species and ban "Internet hunting" in the state.
"In their joint letters, The HSUS and The Fund are urging the governor, legislators and officials within the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to impose a requirement that any person hunting animals in Texas must be physically on site when he or she shoots, and to take steps to ensure that the prohibition covers the many non-native species used in canned hunts."
2.) Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD): Texas Parks and Wildlife Department official Mike Berger told Washington DC reporters, "The current state statutes don't cover this sort of thing."
However, TPWD has posted Remote Controlled Hunting Facts at its website [11-19-04]: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/involved/pubhear/comment/remotehunt/
*edited for length
--[TPWD] is considering regulating remote controlled hunting, including the possibility of prohibiting or restricting this activity in the future...
--The department is not promoting or encouraging this activity, which is being advertised or proposed in at least one instance by a private business as a commercial enterprise...
--One concern of TPWD staff is that anyone who hunts any animal in Texas, whether native wildlife or exotic (non-native) species, is required to have a valid Texas hunting license. If people are hunting at computer screens in other states or even at remote locations within Texas, the situation poses a license enforcement problem.
--The department is in the early stages of assessing this new technology... No formal, written regulatory proposal has been created.
--A specific regulatory proposal will be drafted by TPWD staff for consideration by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, the board appointed by the governor to oversee the department.
--The commission will consider a remote controlled hunting regulatory proposal at its next meeting on January 26, 2005 as part of the 2005-2006 hunting/fishing regulations. Following that meeting, public comment will be accepted on the Internet from March 1 until April 6. The commission will adopt the final regulations April 7.
BUT IS IT ALL A HOAX?
ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton says there is a pretty good chance The Today Show, "Ray Sasser of the Dallas Morning News, Jeff Franks of Reuters, Texas Parks & Wildlife, and the Humane Society of the U.S. and Fund for Animals all got suckered."
In Clifton's letter to Matt Lauer [11-18-04], he claims the press has made no effort to validate <www.live-shot.com> other than "talk with one guy." Clifton points out that no reporter has confirmed whether Underwood is who he claims to be--or if he possesses the land, animals and technology to pull this off. "Hell, if he did," Clifton argues, "why is he working as a body shop estimator, instead of making six figures plus as a designer of advanced weapons systems?"
Clifton's letter continues:
From: Merritt Clifton < firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Attn. Matt Lauer
...The whole thing looks and smells to me remarkably like another of the many hoaxes perpetrated over the years by Joey Skaggs of Greenwich Village, including bogus reports amplified by many news media about an alleged brothel for dogs in New York City, and a Korean dog meat dealer buying dogs from U.S. pounds.
Skaggs teaches classes in how to pull off media hoaxes, and has several active imitators, whose most infamous hoax is something called "Bonsai kittens."
Skaggs also has a huge web site boasting about all the many dozens of times he has suckered mass media: http://www.joeyskaggs.com.
1) Did you verify the name and identity of the purported developer of this hunt-by-computer project? I notice that he went from being "John Lockwood" in Sasser's report to being "John Underwood" in the Reuters report by Jeff Franks. There is no listed "John Lockwood" in San Antonio, and neither of the two John Underwoods has acknowledged involvement, so far.
2) Did you verify that this fellow actually has some land somewhere with some animals on it? There is neither a John Lockwood nor a John Underwood in Rocksprings.
3) Did you verify the web site? According to <www.WhoIs.com>, the web address <www.live-shot.com> was still unassigned, as of yesterday afternoon. What you see when you "go" there may be some sort of mirror site, mounted from outside the U.S.
The claims that you, Sasser, and Jeff Franks have amplified, and that HSUS and the Fund for Animals have fallen for, are postulating that "a body shop estimator for a car dealership" has developed a remote-control computerized weapons system more advanced than anything the U.S. has in Fallujah, capable of sending and receiving signals across half of Texas in time for someone to verify target, aim, and fire before the target moves.
Think about this: if your computer signal travels at the speed of sound, 350 miles from the remote gun to the shooter, and back again to pull the trigger, how long does the target have to move?
How far can a deer move in one minute?
Half a mile or more.
It would take extremely advanced fibre optics to make this even distantly possible.
(Photographing wildlife by remote works because the camera continuously records a scene. All the photographer actually does is select which frame he/she wants to retrieve from the continuous log.)
John Lockwood, if he really is who he says he is, is either pulling a hoax or pulling a scam.
The closest thing to what he claims to have that exists in the U.S. military arsenal involves a "smart" cruise missile tailed by a guide plane flying at approximately the same speed, only seconds behind the missile flight path. Cost: a few billion bucks. Development time: 20-odd years.
Check it out.
Merritt Clifton, Editor, ANIMAL PEOPLE
P.O. Box 960; Clinton, WA 98236
Telephone: 360-579-2505; Fax: 360-579-2575
[ANIMAL PEOPLE is the leading independent newspaper providing original investigative coverage of animal protection worldwide, founded in 1992.]
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