A drone flies against a blue sky© Alex Segre/REX/Shutterstock

Animal rights activists are using unmanned aerial vehicles or drones to spy on farms – gathering information and frightening livestock, claim pig producers.

The issue was raised by Nottinghamshire pig producer Des Allen during an NFU council meeting at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire.

Describing animal rights activists as “a real bane of our life”, Mr Allen told the meeting: “My guys are quite confident we have had drones looking at us.”

See also: Farm leaders call for tougher rules on drones

He added: “If it was dogs in sheep threatening our livelihoods, we could shoot them. They are a real serious problem and they are invading our privacy.”

Safety, security and privacy concerns

A government consultation is examining proposals to harness the positive benefits of drones.

But it is also looking at ways to address safety, security and privacy concerns.

National Pig Association (NPA) chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We have several issues with respect to drones – [and] not only for outdoor pigs.”

Pig panic

Flying a drone over an outdoor pig unit could cause potential panic among the animals, Ms Davies told NFU Council delegates on Tuesday (17 January).

“We know outdoor pigs aren’t particularly keen on hot-air balloons – and we have sorted that issue out – but drones are a threat too,” she said.

Drones had also been used by activists targeting abattoirs, said Ms Davies.

The NPA would be responding to the government consultation to try to “get some control over where and when they can be used.”