Game bird producers and other farmers are being cautioned on new aggressive tactics being used by animal rights activists to misrepresent agriculture and affect public opinion.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance, which is an ally of the North American Gamebird Association, is warning farmers that animal rights activist groups are using unmanned aircraft systems or “drones” in their efforts to capture images and footage for use in media campaigns damaging public perception of animal agriculture.
In addition to privacy concerns, the unauthorized use of drones presents animal safety and biosecurity hazards. Livestock can be spooked and stressed by drone activity over pens and fields, and trespassers and equipment can carry diseases onto farms and threaten the health of herds and flocks.
The Alliance reports that over the past several months, two separate drone incidents in California have brought increased attention to the issue.
In January, poultry farmers reported seeing a drone flying over two separate hen houses. Most recently, activists with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Showing Animals Respect and Kindness were spotted at several dairy farms filming with drones and professional film equipment.
The recent drone activity in California serves as a reminder to everyone in animal agriculture to be aware of this emerging tactic and take proactive steps to protect farms and businesses.
The Alliance recommends the following proactive steps:
- Contact local law enforcement to begin a dialog and ask for their recommendations. The technology is outpacing the law, so local/state law enforcement officials have likely never faced these situations before. The time to start this conversation is now – not when a situation is unfolding. The FAA has resources for local/state law enforcement: https://www.faa.gov/uas/law_enforcement/. We strongly encourage state farm organizations to meet with state and local law enforcement agencies and provide these documents.
- Post “no trespassing” signs on your property.
- Register your home as a “No Fly Zone” for participating drone manufacturers at noflyzone.org. It’s been reported that this ability for business addresses is coming soon.
Producers who see a drone flying overhead or activists filming at their property should:
- Report it to local law enforcement immediately.
- Attempt to learn who they are and what their concerns are in a respectful manner.
- Write down the vehicle’s license plate number.
- DO NOT be combative, use force or touch/shoot the drones.
The Alliance also reports that animal rights organizations are currently recruiting workers for undercover investigations.
For example, “Compassion Over Killing” posted job openings in January and February for the cities of Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix, Miami, Ann Arbor, Salt Lake City, Dallas and Los Angeles. The ad states that the job requires 100 percent travel for extended periods of time. They are looking for employees with a high school education and willing to work long hours while performing heavy manual labor in “filthy conditions.”
PETA may be targeting high school students for part time or seasonal help to go undercover. A high school student was approached at a pig show in Oklahoma and offered $30,000 to go undercover for the summer.
These recruitment activities by activist organizations serve as a reminder to ensure all employees are on your farm for the right reasons.