Don’t let dogs bark in cattle fields, public urged as walkers’ deaths rise 50 per cent

Walkers have been urged not to let their barking dogs enter cattle fields, as deaths on farmland rose 50 per cent during the pandemic. 

Five members of the public were killed in cattle attacks between April 2020 and March this year, according to data from the Health and Safety Executive. 

In total, seven members of the public died in farmland accidents, 50 per cent above the five year average, the data show.

The Farm Safety Foundation called on walkers to take note of the Countryside Code, which says if a dog starts to bark as they enter a field of cattle owners should “return the way you came and calm the dog and wait for the herd to settle”.

The Code also advises against getting between cows and their calves, moving slowly around cattle, and waiting for them to move if they are on a path. 

The National Farmers Union calls for dogs to be kept on their lead when walking past livestock. But it warns owners to release them if cattle start chasing to maximise the chances of both reaching safety, as cow herds will usually follow the dog. 

‘Farms are not playgrounds or parks’

“It is fantastic that ramblers and dog-walkers are enjoying the mental and physical benefits of our great outdoors, but be aware that farms are not playgrounds or parks and you need to be considerate to the farm and the wildlife that live there,” Stephanie Berkeley, manager of The Farm Safety Foundation, said. 

“While most people who visit the countryside are keen to act responsibly, serious farm related incidents can be due to a lack of understanding of what the farmland is being used for and what your responsibilities are when visiting,” she said. 

A Dorset farmer recently started a petition calling for a change to the law to force dog owners to keep their pets on leads after a pregnant Highland cow was chased to her death on his land. 

The Government will soon introduce new payments to farmers to improve access to their land, but many fear the impact from inappropriate behaviour. 

Police and local authorities have issued repeated warnings over vandalism and risky behaviour in the countryside as the pandemic has led to a rise in visits to country beauty spots. 

Farmers have found themselves forced to erect their own toilets and signs to ensure visitors behave appropriately on their land. 

The Farm Safety Foundation also called on walkers to avoid trampling through crops which they said may "look pretty but are actually someone’s livelihood". 

‘The effects can be absolutely catastrophic’

The Woodland Trust on Friday warned people not to light fires on its sites, as it fears the breakout of a major blaze as the hot weather continues. 

Al Crosby, the Woodland Trust’s regional director for northern England, said: “Our key message is to people – help us to protect the precious woods and wildlife near you – please don’t light fires, it poses untold risk to people and wildlife.

“Even if people think they are in control, one minute it can soon change and the effects can be absolutely catastrophic.”

Among the 7 deaths on farmland last year were a two-year old who died of exposure to slurry fumes, and another child who was killed in an accident involving a quad bike. 

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