The League Against Cruel Sports, a British animal advocacy organization, has announced plans to use drones in order to catch illegal hunting activities.
“There is a war in the countryside and whilst there are still individuals determined to flout the law and seek new ways to avoid detection, the League will continue to explore safe, tested and innovative technology to further our charitable aim of ending cruelty to animals in the name of sport,” said Joe Duckworth, the organization’s Chief Executive.
The group hopes to stop hare coursing, badger baiting and illegal fox hunting. It has been illegal to fox hunt with dogs in England and Wales since 2005 and in Scotland since 2002, but it’s still going on.
The League will be the first animal welfare organization in Great Britain to explore the use of drones. However, it has been used by the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Northern Ireland to deter badger baiters, and by the World Wildlife Fund in operations against poachers in Africa. They’ve also been used by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and in the U.S. by Showing Animals Respect and Kindness in an effort to expose cruelty at pigeon shoots. Unfortunately, hunters here evidently deal with the issue by shooting them down.
The technology will will be provided by the non-profit aerial surveillance and monitoring organization ShadowView, which was launched in January to aid with conservation efforts, among other things, and also just announced a partnership with another organization to stop illegal driftnet fishing in the Mediterranean.
The pro-hunting crowd is balking over the move, and raising questions about privacy and civil liberties being violated. However, in the UK it is “legal to fly your own drone without any special permission if it weighs less than 20kg and is flying more than 150m from a congested area,” according to the BBC.
“No one owns the upper stratum of airspace so provided the drones fly at a reasonable height so as not to cause a nuisance they will not be trespassing,” said a spokeswoman for the league. “We would only use this equipment if we believed illegal activity was taking place, we wouldn’t just go out and monitor anybody.”
The Police Federation said that evidence obtained through the use of drones would be treated in a similar way to that obtained using CCTV.
ShadowView is also being very straightforward about what they’re doing.
“We fly and film within the law and within the CAA flight regulations of the UK. We are filming illegal hunts, so if you’re not acting illegally you have nothing to worry about. It’s interesting that poachers and illegal hunters are the first to complain about invasion of privacy when activists document their crimes; I cannot imagine the police or courts being very sympathetic to an armed bank robber complaining that his crime was filmed, as being an invasion of his privacy,” said co-founder Steve Roest.
Hopefully, the group will be able to collect evidence of crimes that would otherwise go unseen and undocumented and use it to have violators prosecuted.
“We are excited to be the first animal welfare charity in Great Britain to be exploring drone technology. We are confident that it will make a fantastic contribution to bringing wildlife criminals to justice,” said Duckworth.
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