People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced earlier this month they plan to use drones to watch hunters and farm operators for illegal activity this fall.

Commentary: PETA, hunters and drones – a volatile mixPETA doesn’t yet have drones – small, remote-controlled, camera-carrying aircraft – nor have they identified specific locations where it intends to fly them. But the group says it will purchase drones to further its mission of saving animals.

The group’s press release stated: “PETA will soon have some impressive new weapons at its disposal to combat those who gun down deer and doves.” With intentions to purchase one or more drone aircraft, PETA says it intends to “monitor those who are out in the woods with death on their minds. PETA aims to collect video footage of any illegal activity, including drinking while in the possession of a firearm, a common complaint from those who live near wooded areas; maiming animals and failing to pursue them so that they die slowly and painfully; and using spotlights, feed lures, and other hunting tricks that are illegal in some areas but remain common practices among hunters.”

PETA also intends to fly the remote-controlled aircraft over “factory farms,” fishing spots and “other venues where animals routinely suffer and die.”

PETA president Ingrid Newkirk says, “The talk is usually about drones being used as killing machines, but PETA drones will be used to save lives.”

Unfortunately, you know what’s coming. There’s a confrontation already brewing with hunters that find themselves under PETA’s surveillance. It doesn’t take much imagination to predict that PETA’s drones will become targets for disgruntled hunters, creating a potentially volatile confrontation.

There’s plenty that can go wrong when you mix hunters with guns in a remote location being harassed by animal-rights zealots. Is that really the type of situation PETA wants to promote?

Sadly, the answer is probably “yes.” PETA would like nothing better than a full-blown confrontation with a group of hunters who have shot down their drone. PETA’s PR machine would shift into overdrive.

Some states, however, are already taking action to limit the use of drones. The Illinois House of Representatives sanctioned a proposal on April 15 that criminalizes the use of drones to disrupt hunting and fishing, making such interference a misdemeanor. That same day the Illinois Senate approved a bill on that requires law enforcement agencies to acquire a warrant before using aerial drones in investigations.

Unmanned drones have opened a whole new legal area that has not been fully defined by the courts. But common sense would suggest private groups such as PETA should not be afforded the means to create potentially dangerous confrontations with hunters, farmers or any U.S. citizens.