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State bans PETA's hunter-harassing drones

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Updated Mar 18, 2014 at 10:45 PM

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been promoting the use of airborne drones to "monitor" hunters, but such harassment is now illegal in Tennessee.

The state already had a law prohibiting PETA or other animal-rights radicals from interfering with legal hunting, and earlier this month the State Senate approved Bill 1777 that specifically prohibits "the use of drones to conduct video surveillance of private citizens who are lawfully hunting or fishing."

PETA claims to have sold 70 drones to its members to "conduct video surveillance and catch illegal hunters and fishermen in the act."

PETA calls the unmanned aerial vehicles "Air Angel Drones."

According to its website, "PETA has come up with a drone program that can help protect animals from illegal hunting and other nasty pursuits, and you can be part of the action with an Air Angel Drone."

It didn't explain what it means by "other nasty pursuits."

PETA said the drones will be used to videotape illegal hunting. The real intent, of course, is to harass hunters and try to scare away game animals in the vicinity. PETA has employed similar tactics in the past, with members traveling through hunting areas honking air horns, banging pots and pans, playing loud music and creating disturbances intended to frighten away animals and disrupt hunting.

Even though harassing hunters is illegal, PETA plans to proceed with its drone program. It claims it will focus only on "illegal" hunting. But in order to "observe illegal hunting activity," the PETA drone operators would have to monitor all hunters. That would disrupt legal hunts.

Such monitoring is not necessary to enforce game laws. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency maintains 24-hour "poaching hotlines" on which suspected illegal hunting activities can be reported. Violations can also be reported to any local TWRA officer.

PETA fails to explain what the next step would be if one of its drones actually discovered illegal hunting or fishing activities. Presumably it would be reported to TWRA officials, as is currently done through the poaching hotline.

But deterring poachers is clearly not the objective of PETA's drone program. The purpose is to interfere with legal hunting, and that could lead to confrontations between hunters and PETA radicals who harass them.

As one hunter remarked: "I wonder what the limit is on drones?"

The prompt arrest and prosecution of PETA activists who violate the law could ward off serious problems.

A few years ago Tennessee added a "Right to Hunt and Fish" amendment to the state constitution. The state-wide referendum passed by a 9-to-1 margin. Yet some media argued that the constitutional safeguard was unnecessary because -- they claimed -- hunting and fishing are not threatened. Those media outlets were either naively misinformed or intentionally misleading. I suspect both.

Hunting, and to a lesser extent, fishing, is under constant attack by PETA and other animal-rights radicals. Harassing hunters with drones is simply a continuation of a long-time assault that has gone high-tech.

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