Earlier this year, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) announced it would deploy surveillance drones to monitor hunts next season. So should hunts be worried or is it just a scare tactic?

According to the Countryside Alliance (CA), this is nothing but a “PR stunt”.

Speaking in March, LACS chief executive Joe Duckworth said drones were “a necessary tactic to help catch [those] illegally hunting”.

He said the devices would “enhance the charity’s tactics by providing support to the teams operating on the ground, gathering intelligence and evidence of illegal activity”.

But Tim Bonner, campaigns director at the CA, dismissed the threat.

“No one who understands the difficulties in collecting evidence against alleged illegal hunting activity really believes [LACS] will use this technology,” he told H&H.

“It’s a sign of the pressure it is under to get back into the headlines,” he added.

The drones LACS says it will use are similar to model aircraft and will be subject to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules.

“One major reason why they won’t work for hunting is that CAA rules specify that the operator must be in the line of sight,” said Mr Bonner.

“A hunt ranges over many miles. It’s just not practical.”

LACS said the drones would be used alongside its current “monitoring” equipment, “operating within the law and CAA guidance”. But it could not be specific as to when it will start using the equipment, due “to intelligence and tactical considerations”.

Duke of Beaufort’s hunt follower Netia Walker said it was “a ridiculous idea”.

“With any luck the antis will do the usual of giving it all the chat and then it comes to nothing,” she said.

Mr Bonner warned hunts not to be tempted to retaliate if they do see a drone.

“Avoid the temptation to do anything that would leave you open to malicious allegation,” he said. “This is not a serious attempt to ‘enforce’ the Hunting Act, as [LACS] sees it, it just wants to get a story.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (23 May 2013)