Australian Animal Activists Launch Spy Drone to Monitor Factory Farms

A group of animal activists based in Australia have taken to the skies to launch their new campaign against intensive livestock production.

The organization, known as Animal Liberation, purchased a $14,000 spy drone aircraft earlier this year and had it outfitted with a $3,000 high-definition video camera, stabilizers, and a 10x zoom lens.  The group’s executive director in NSW, Mark Pearson, told ABC Australia, “It gives the opportunity to document from above 10 meters and below 30 meters, and it is lawful.  So the key to the remote-controlled device is that it’s actually vision that’s obtained without trespass, it’s obtained lawfully in our airspace so what it documents is something that can be used by all the authorities, police and the courts.”

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The drone was recently used to film two free range egg farms.  One at Dora Creek, located in the Central Coast of NSW, and another at Maitland, north of Newcastle.  Animal Liberation says it plans to provide the pictures to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in order to investigate whether the two farms were actually free range.

“If it’s free range, the birds must have access to outside vegetation, palatable vegetation, shade, light, dust, etc, to fulfill their needs, which is what consumers expect to be the case if consumers are paying the premium for free-range eggs,” continued Mr. Pearson.

But this practice is not without its detractors.  As reported on the Daily Telegraph, the possibility of drones spying of farmers has caught the ire of David Warriner, president of the Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association.  Mr Warriner states, “I know some farmers who would have a go at the drone with their gun.  You can’t have this stuff going around willy-nilly because farmers fly in helicopters and planes.  The drones are noisy things too so they’d disturb the livestock and frighten them.”

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While Mr. Warriner understands that animal welfare is under the political microscope, he also feels that putting spy drones in the air is a wee bit excessive.

“99% of farmers do the right thing, so I don’t think the drones will last long,” he said.  “I don’t know if it’s an invasion of privacy, however ethically, I’d say it is.”

Would this be allowed in the U.S.? It depends. Since 2010, ag gag bills have passed in five states: Arkansas, Utah, South Carolina, Missouri and Iowa. Overall, they’ve been introduced in 19 states. The laws criminalize those who film,  photograph or distribute images of animal enterprise industries such as factory farms. So, it’s probably save to assume we won’t be seeing any drones hovering over factory farms in the U.S. anytime soon.

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What do you think? Using drones is creative activism or going too far?

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons