Animal desires are unleashed in cyberspace

February 09, 2006|By TIM ROWLAND

For our first stop in today's installment of "Animals in the News," we will visit a little place I like to call "Cyberspace," where a gentleman who is clearly ahead of his time has cooked up an idea that the rest of the country simply isn't ready for yet.

Basically, it's called Internet hunting, and allows a sporting chap the chance to aim, shoot and fire a real gun at real big game on his computer screen from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Look, we've always heard that an elephant is scared of a mouse, and now Dumbo and Co. have good reason.

As I understand it, this is the brainchild of some dude in Texas (naturally) who has a ranch full of game that the paying customer can shoot by using a camera and gun mounted somewhere on the range, which he controls through his computer.

I absolutely love the idea of turning a nation of computer nerds into bloodthirsty killers, but it would seem that I am in the minority. Lawmakers in a number of states are falling all over themselves, trying to figure out which they want to ban first, Internet hunting or gay marriage. It is possible one or two states will become confused and outlaw gay hunters.


Even - and I find this hard to believe - the National Rifle Association is against the idea. My goodness, the NRA has gone soft? Come on, if guns that are controlled remotely by some unseen hand are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns that are controlled remotely by some unseen hand.

And the Constitution aside, I would think that Internet hunting would be such a time saver. I mean, who has time to get all dolled up in camouflage, buy some ammo, pack a lunch and head off to the forest anymore? Today's modern hunter is expected to be some kind of "superhunter," holding down a job, taking the kids to soccer practice, buying groceries, cooking dinner, cleaning house and blowing away Bambi all at the same time. It just can't be done.

With Internet hunting, it's boot up, log in, scroll over, scroll down, click-click, bang-bang, game over, in and out in 19 seconds, thanks for playing, we'll send you the head on a plaque, FedEx will have it to you on the third business day.

Is that so wrong? It's more humane, too, I think. Animal never knows what hits it. It never has to stare with fear into the eyes of its killer.

Besides, only the stupidest animal is not going to notice after a couple of days that a Very Bad Thing happens to any critter that walks in front of the camera with the antenna on it.

The bighorn sheep are going to be talking: "Hey Irving, I don't want to nag, but if I were you, I'd keep away from the one-eyed caribou over there on the platform."

And speaking of nag, that takes us to our next stop on the "Animals in the News" tour, Charles Town, W.Va., where last week owners of Charles Town Races & Slots slapped a quarantine on their stables to try to head off an outbreak of equine herpes that was spreading among Maryland racehorses.

I had heard that Maryland horses were fast, but I had no idea. 'Course I didn't know there was any such thing as equine herpes either - or that Charles Town Races still has horses, for that matter.

Charles Town said its horses were, to date, disease free and the quarantine was an attempt to keep it that way. No doubt. Don't want the place turning into another Mustang Ranch. It could be the end of maiden races as we know them.

Equine herpes would, however, be a good name for a horse. "As they come around the final turn into the home stretch, it's Equine Herpes by a half, with Mono y Mono on the rail and Elvirus closing fast on the outside..."

According to press accounts, equine herpes is known as EHV-1 and, like its cousin MTV, it can attack the central nervous system, causing mind-numbing paralysis. As a precaution, no horses from other tracks were allowed to come into Charles Town and those that left the track to race elsewhere could not return. Other horses are checked at the door.

When I am old, there will be some things I will be proud to say I have never done. One is working in retail. Another is checking out a horse for a venereal disease. No sir. Even if it could be done over the Internet.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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