Dog Wars IV: The NFU piles in

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As a non-subscribing reader of the Farmers Weekly website, I only have ten free articles per month, but as we are near the end of May, I decided to splash out today and read this article, which I reproduce in its entirety for you.

The NFU has warned dog owners and walkers to take care around livestock over the bank holiday weekend.

The union made the warning after a number of recent fatalities and injuries involving walkers being trampled by cows.

It also highlighted statistics showing 200 dog attacks on livestock last year and urged owners to keep their animals under close control.

The NFU has also issued a number of dos and don’ts for walkers as part of its public-facing, Love Your Countryside campaign.

Do

  • Stop, look and listen when entering a field and as you walk through be particularly aware of cows with calves, bulls, and rams.
  • Take the best route – keep to paths where possible but give livestock plenty of space. Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves.
  • Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
  • Move quickly, quietly and calmly, and if possible walk around the herd.
  • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a short lead around cows and sheep.

Don’t

  • Don’t hang on to your dog. If you are threatened by cattle – let it go as to allow the dog to run to safety.
  • Don’t put yourself at risk. Find another way round the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.
  • Don’t panic or run. Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow, just walk on quietly.

 

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe issued a statement to the general public which urged them to be more aware of their surroundings in rural areas. “This is a working environment so please be sympathetic especially to those animals rearing their young and give them space,” Mr Sercombe said.

“Remember that our animals are our livelihood and we can’t risk having them distressed, hurt or killed by dogs with irresponsible owners. So, back British farming by following the simple dos and don’ts.”
Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board chairman

“When walking with dogs in fields with livestock, the advice is to keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead and not to hang on to your dog if you feel threatened – let it go as the animals will chase the dog, allowing you to stay out of harm’s way. Dogs usually run faster than livestock and this allows the dog to get to safety.

“Remember that our animals are our livelihood and we can’t risk having them distressed, hurt or killed by dogs with irresponsible owners. So, back British farming by following the simple dos and don’ts,” he added.

The warning also focused on the threat posed to cattle from neospora – a virulent parasite found in dogs’ faeces that can cause cattle to abort or give birth to calves infected for life.

Neospora can also infect sheep causing them to abort too. So the most responsible thing for dog walkers to do is to pick it up in the countryside, bag it and bin it.

Mr Sercombe said: “This is a real issue, especially for those farms which attract dozens of walkers on a daily basis walking their dogs and who don’t clean up after them. Dogs are a primary host for the parasite and while cattle infection can circulate within a herd via vertical transmission, naïve cattle [cows which have not been exposed to infection in the past] grazing on pastures contaminated by infected dog faeces can become susceptible. Just one incident of a cow eating some of the parasite eggs can have a huge impact on a whole herd.”

Actually I needn’t have bothered as I could have found the NFU press release on its own website. Here it is.

The NFU is reminding dog owners and walkers to be vigilant and responsible when out in the countryside this bank holiday weekend.

The call comes in the wake of several fatalities involving walkers being trampled by cows, while incidents of sheep worrying are on the rise with the NFU Mutual reporting more than 200 separate cases last year; an increase of six per cent on the previous year.

The NFU is setting out simple do’s and don’ts for members of the public as part of its successful Love your Countryside campaign, with advice and guidance on how to keep people and livestock safe.

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said it was important that dogs were kept under control.

“Spring is a lovely time to go walking with your dog in the countryside, but it is also a time to be aware of your surroundings,” said Mr Sercombe. “This is a working environment so please be sympathetic especially to those animals rearing their young and give them space.

“When walking with dogs in fields with livestock, the advice is to keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead and not to hang onto your dog if you feel threatened – let it go as the animals will chase the dog, allowing you to stay out of harm’s way. Dogs usually run faster than livestock and this allows the dog to get to safety.

Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board_198_275

“Remember that our animals are our livelihood and we can’t risk having them distressed, hurt or killed by dogs with irresponsible owners. So, back British farming by following a few simple do’s and don’ts. ”

Another growing problem facing farmers across the country is Neospora – a virulent parasite found in dogs’ faeces and, if they foul grazing land and pregnant cattle ingest the parasite, it will cause them to abort or give birth to calves infected for life. Neospora can also infect sheep causing them to abort too. So the most responsible thing for dog walkers to do is to pick it up in the countryside, bag it and bin it.

Mr Sercombe said: “This is a real issue, especially for those farms which attract dozens of walkers on a daily basis walking their dogs and who don’t clean up after them. Dogs are a primary host for the parasite and while cattle infection can circulate within a herd via vertical transmission, naïve cattle grazing on pastures contaminated by infected dog faeces can become susceptible. Just one incident of a cow eating some of the parasite eggs can have a huge impact on a whole herd.

“This is about better information for the public – dog owners must be made aware of the problems that occur. Those using agricultural land to exercise their dogs should do so responsibly and clean up after their animals to avoid the spread of this disease in livestock.”

I’m not suggesting Farmers Weekly always publishes the NFU press releases verbatim without any critical journalist assessment of them, of course not. But the article does bear a striking resemblance to the PR. Except for one thing: the NFU is calling for dog owners to clean up after their animals to avoid spreading this nasty disease.

Amazingly, Farmers Weekly did not include this Big Ask. Why not? Could it be that the dog-walking lobby is already launching its counter-attack? Are they demanding their rights to leave dog poop all over the country? Will the NFU be taken to the European Court of Human Rights? Is there a correlation between people who don’t pick up their dog poo and UKIP voters?

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About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in dog poo, dogs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Dog Wars IV: The NFU piles in

  1. Hi Miles, I’m confused by your blog – neither the press release nor the Farmers Weekly article has the line “The NFU is calling for dog owners to clean up after their animals to avoid spreading this nasty disease”.

    The Farmers Weekly article has the line “the most responsible thing for dog walkers to do is to pick it up in the countryside, bag it and bin it”.

    Whats the difference?

    • Miles King says:

      thanks Sarah. You’re right – I shouldnt have put the quote marks around that phrase – my mistake (writing early in the morning). Now corrected.

      But that is the message the NFU press release conveys, as they state at the end of it “those using agricultural land to exercise their dogs should do so responsibly and clean up after their animals to avoid the spread of this disease in livestock.”

      So – why was this key message left off the Farmers Weekly article – sloppy sub-editing?

  2. Probably edited down for space but it doesn’t leave out the key message as it says “Neospora can also infect sheep causing them to abort too. So the most responsible thing for dog walkers to do is to pick it up in the countryside, bag it and bin it.” I think you are reading too much into this article and its editing.

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