If hunters stalk their prey, how well do you suppose they would like being stalked by a drone that hunts for the hunters? Hunters may not normally be concerned with surveillance or drones, but PETA plans to launch drones in order to "spy on hunters," collect footage, and then publicize it.
Animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced its intention to use "remote-controlled aircraft to collect and publicize footage of hunters shooting animals and allowing them to escape, only to die slowly and in agony, among other common violations." The group contacted drone manufacturer Aerobot, and told Fast Company that PETA plans to buy "several Aerobot Cinestar Octocopters--eight-rotored octocopters designed for use by the film industry and landscape architects. The Cinestar is designed to carry heavy cameras and has a 20 minute flight time when carrying smaller cameras; it is also intended for use by a two-person crew. Aerobot, which is based in Australia, markets to an international customer base not constrained by the FAA's rules."
Ironically, after a DroidWorx AD8HL Octocopter "privacy infringement" story aired on ABC Radio National, Aerobot urged "operators to please keep in mind the privacy rights of those around them." Nevertheless, PETA added, "With more than five times as many wildlife watchers as there are hunters in the U.S., we hope to expose further why hunting is a sick and sickening pursuit."
Some other animal rights "watchers" are activists who work undercover to covertly collect videos about animal cruelty at livestock farms. The New York Times reported that some state legislatures have "proposed or enacted bills that would make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms, or apply for a job at one without disclosing ties to animal rights groups." In fact, if some business advocacy groups have their way, then such animal cruelty videotaping would become the crime and the videographer would be labeled a "terrorist." For example, one piece of legislation is called "The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act" [pdf]. It "prohibits filming or taking pictures on livestock farms to 'defame the facility or its owner.' Violators would be placed on a 'terrorist registry.'"
PETA is not the first animal rights groups to attempt to use drone surveillance to hunt hunters. In Australia, the Animal Liberation group was the first "to deploy surveillance drones to hunt for evidence of animal abuse on private property." Last year in South Carolina, an animal rights group used a drone in order to monitor pigeon hunters. The hunters shot down the drone [video].
While PETA does not plan to publicly release the locations where the drones will start flying this fall, Kaitlynn Kelly, a PETA spokesperson, told U.S. News, "We will look into the Northeast, bighorn sheep hunts and bowhunts because those are especially cruel." Perhaps it would also be more challenging to shoot down a surveillance drone with bows and arrows? She added that PETA will seek FAA approval, but that they "hope this won't be an issue." Last month, the FAA took issue with and grounded a drone-based aerial photography business in Minnesota.
Plenty of organizations "hope" the FAA will not find an issue with them and have applied to be federally designated drone test sites. In fact, 50 groups in 37 states have applied to be one of the six FAA drone test sites [pdf]. At the recent FAA virtual town hall meeting about drone test site privacy policies, callers chimed in with a wide range of comments other than privacy issues.
Regarding the six FAA drone test sites, the Los Angeles Times reported, "Tests initially are expected to focus on small drones, typically 50 pounds or less, flying at altitudes of up to 5,000 to 10,000 feet, but eventually could include bigger drones like the ones used in combat - but unarmed." Other places, such as Springfield, Illinois, are working on legislation like SB 1587, the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act. State Senator Daniel Bliss said of the bill, "It was basically me and the ACLU on one side and five-trillion law enforcement agencies on the other side who had a whole series of objections."
PETA seems to always be doing something controversial to gain media attention, like having celebrities strip for photos. Meanwhile, after an expose with sickening pictures of "PETA's secret slaughter of kittens and puppies," there is a big stink going on at the Huffington Post between animal rights activist Nathan Winograd and PETA. The "documented toll of 29,426 animals" that PETA has euthanized has led to a call for people to boycott celebrities who strip for PETA.
It remains to be seen if PETA's drone surveillance of hunters this fall will collect footage to help the animal rights organization, or if hunters will hunt and shoot down the drones just like in South Carolina.
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