As a falconer, I'm often sent images and random news stories involving birds of prey by people who excitedly believe I simply must see them.

Be it the young Kazakh girl in The Eagle Huntress, or a hawk versus a snake fighting it out in lurid, writhing detail, I've seen it all. Often, many times before.

The latest thing that social media folk tell me I can't possibly miss - usually because they consider it "awesome" or "bad ass" - are eagles versus drones. Yes, the latest human disconnect, from anything remotely resembling nature, is again upon us.

The French army and the Dutch police are using basic falconry techniques to train golden eagles to attack drones in mid-air, and take them down.


The birds are taught to treat the drones as if they are a small animal they would normally hunt to eat. This is achieved by placing meat on a drone and letting the baby eagles crawl all over it to find it.

Naturally, as they learn to fly, they see a drone in flight as a food source. Each time they catch one, they are rewarded with a hunk of meat.

The eagles will be launched whenever drones are believed to be a possible threat to the public, such as during state visits or if the remote-controlled craft are flying too close to airports. In other words, terrorism.

Why do I despise it so?

Obviously, the chance of one of the multiple spinning blades injuring the raptors is one thing - and something the proponents barely mention. Although, to be fair, the military has designed mittens made of leather and Kevlar, an anti-blast material, to at least protect their talons.

But here's the rub.

Even having to wear said mittens to cover their talons is against everything these birds innately are. Their whole biology is about catching live prey using their talons, and then squeezing. Dinner is served.

Given our human biology is all about "man's dominion over nature", none of this is surprising. Human endeavour and conflict takes precedence over a bunch of lowly, lesser critters. Treating animals like disposable nappies is nothing new.

During World War I, horses, donkeys, mules and camels carried food, water, ammunition and medical supplies to men at the front. Dogs and pigeons carried messages. Canaries were used to detect poisonous gas, and cats and dogs were trained to hunt rats in the trenches.

Animals were not only used for work. Dogs, cats, and more unusual animals - including monkeys, bears, lions and foxes - were kept as pets and mascots to raise morale and provide comfort amid all the man-made carnage. More than eight million war horses died, and countless mules and donkeys.

But, you know, like rats in the lab used to solve human health afflictions, who cares? Best not talked about.

It is this disconnect between what an animal's purpose is, unrelated to us, that exercises me. I'm not squeamish, by any measure, but our human capacity for inexhaustible cruelty makes me so.

Working with a hawk (falconry) to catch a rabbit or hare doesn't make me squeamish. In the slightest. The bird is doing exactly what it does in the wild, while allowing falconers the honour of observing it catch its food. It doesn't even have to come back to the glove - but overwhelmingly does - after the hunt. If it doesn't, it can survive without us.

I much prefer it to hunting with guns, because at least the prey has a sporting chance - oh, and it's visceral and raw. Like nature.

I would always rather eat wild-killed meat, rather than that obtained from the industrial slaughterhouses. Every single time. The human disconnect between industrial farming and slaughter processes, and the meat in our shopping trolley, runs deep.

Meat-eaters who judge hunters might benefit from a weekend in the bush. Please, take up this one-time offer because the alternative - a tour through your average abattoir - will make the bush trip feel like a picnic.

If you despise meat-eating due to animal welfare concerns, you'll be a vegetarian. Good on you for living by your principles.

If you enjoy meat-eating, then the question must be this. Could you quickly and humanely kill the animal you're about to eat? If not, consider maybe not eating it. Put simply, eating it makes you a stone-cold hypocrite.

You see, be it eagles chasing down drones over European skies, dogs used to sniff out landmines in Sudan, war horses blown to bits in Passchendaele, or prettily-packaged supermarket trays of fresh red meat in your fridge, we all ignore the manner of the life and death of animals. When it suits us to.

Because dragging animals into our human folly is what we do.