PETA And Their Drones

     Many of us have heard about drones being used to monitor game for a hunt, which is now illegal in most states. The use of drones for preseason scouting is also well known and not without controversy. But, according to an article by Jay Kirk in the March 2016 issue of Harper’s Magazine, titled “Killer Bunny in the Sky,” drones have another use that is very relevant to hunters, and likewise very controversial.
     Hunters (and all meat-eaters) have long been at odds with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) or rather, PETA has been at odds with us. One of their most recent tactics is to use drones to conduct surveillance on hunters. In Kirk’s article, a PETA contingent uses a drone to watch over a section of the Myles Standish State Forest in eastern Massachusetts, presumably to report hunting violations. The events described took place on October 19th, 2013 and are described at length.
     The PETA faction has several encounters with hunters who happen upon them, and all exchanges are calm and civil, even though the PETA personnel come across as subtlety trying to provoke a confrontation. Again, the purpose of this field operation was to use a drone to monitor hunter activity, ostensibly to report law violations. They didn’t spot any illegal behavior on this outing, but the prospect of animal rights activists spying on hunters while afield is certainly worth considering.
     I don’t know for sure, but I think there are several states that use drones for enforcement of fish and game laws, and this is a fine thing. But a private organization that compares eating meat to the holocaust (check out the commercial here) and acknowledges a very strong anti-hunting bias is a different matter. Given the track record of protests, disruptions and destructive, direct-action antics that PETA members have engaged in, it is distinctly possible that passive observation would quickly give way to active interference. Drones are quiet, so I don’t think noise would be an issue, but I can imagine them being used to herd/harass wildlife that is perceived to be in danger of falling prey to hunters. Deer frequenting an open field, for example, could be coaxed back into a wood line by a drone making a low pass. Another scenario would involve a drone pilot spotting hunters and/or game animals and coordinating with people on the ground to interfere with a hunt. It is illegal to interfere with a hunt in progress in all fifty states, as well as on federal land, but that will not stop PETA from doing it anyway. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, their claim is that they are looking for violations to report. This provides a seemingly perfect cover to put drones in position for active harassment; they can claim assisting with enforcement while acquiescing to the law by not directly interfering.
     But the situation may not be so bleak, at least from the hunter’s standpoint. Although this article was only just published, the content is already a few years out of date. A quick internet search suggests that a lot of attention has already been called to this issue, much of it by PETA themselves, in their exuberance to quell hunting activity. Luckily, hunters have spoken up, and several states have already passed legislation specifically banning drone use in an area where they have been used to interfere with hunting. Sportsmen will no doubt continue to voice their opinions to state and federal legislature on this matter, and report any incidents of hunter harassment to law enforcement.
    

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