WASHINGTON - Picture a woodsy scene: Camouflaged-hunters stalk their quarry and in the sky above, drones spy on the hunters.
This spring and summer, while hunters are dreaming and planning their fall outings, the animal rights group People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals is shopping for drones.
"We're looking at companies that produce drones. We're in the exploratory stage and we're quite excited," says Ingrid Newkirk, president and co-founder of PETA.
Newkirk envisions camera-equipped drones returning real-time images of game law violations including illegal hunting and illegal baiting.
"Hunters often think, and in their magazines they talk about, they're sort of in the middle-of-nowhere where no one can see them. But a drone could be the silent observer," Newkirk says.
If hunters feel secure that tree cover would screen them from the drone's prying eyes, Newkirk has other ideas.
"This could take place in a clearing, and so it would be very easy for a drone to go over the clearing and see that a site had been baited, even before the deer or the birds land," Newkirk says.
PETA has smuggled hidden cameras into meat packing plants, chicken farms and various agri-businesses. It has turned over video tapes, along with its complaints, to government authorities.
In the case of hunters and drones, Newkirk says video of illegal activities could be conveyed to state game wardens.
Newkirk believes the drones could even act as a deterrent, keeping hunters in line.
But couldn't hunters armed with shotguns and high-powered rifles shoot down a slow and low-flying drone?
"I'd far rather they shot down our harmless drone than they shot some gentle deer or dove," Newkirk says.
PETA hopes to deploy its drones in the United States in time for this fall's hunting season.
"Bear hunting is particularly of interest to us," says Newkirk.
Drones are already being used overseas by wildlife protectors against rhinoceros poachers in South Africa.
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