10 April 2015
Farmer Fined as Walker Hurt by Cows – What’s the Law?
A farmer has been fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £8,885 in costs after his cows trampled a walker crossing his land on a public footpath.
Emma Smith was out walking her dog when she slipped in a field. A herd of cows trampled her and caused numerous Serious Injuries. She was left with punctured lungs, broken ribs and spinal fractures after the herd stamped and sat on her.
This case may seem like Emma would be to blame for crossing a field with animals in but actually the farmer breached the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. By not assessing the risk to the public when keeping cattle in a field crossed by a public right of way he failed to ensure that Emma would be safe.
The Act requires employers and the self-employed to ensure, so far as is reasonably practical, they do not put members of the public at risk by their work activities. This applies to keeping bulls or other cattle in fields.
There are other Acts farmers should consider:
• The Occupiers Liability Acts 1957 and 1984 require land managers to show a reasonable duty of care towards other people.
• The Animals Act 1971 makes the keeper of an animal "strictly liable" in most cases for injuries caused by their stock.
• The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 bans bulls of recognised dairy breeds (e.g. Ayrshire, Friesian, Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey and Kerry) in all circumstances from being at large in fields crossed by public rights of way.
This means that the farmer is completely responsible for his cattle no matter how they behave. If the farmer is unsure of the temperament of the herd then they should not be put into any fields that are crossed by public footpaths.
It is always sensible to move quickly, quietly and calmly through fields with animals and make sure any dogs are kept on a lead and under control. If you feel threatened, just carry on as normal, do not run, move to the edge of the field and if possible find another way round the field, returning to the original path as soon as is possible.
The biggest risks are walking with dogs or walking near cattle with young calves. They are likely to want to protect them and you may seem like a threat, especially if you have a dog.
If cows get too close, turning quietly to face them with arms outstretched is considered the best approach. Usually they are just inquisitive and want to know what you are doing in their field.
If you are involved in an incident involving cattle you should contact the Health and Safety Executive, the local Rights-of-Way Officer and the Police if the incident is serious.
Any injuries caused by cattle mean that the farmer is liable. It’s always best to get legal advice if you have been involved in an incident on farmland that wasn’t your fault. Call the expert team of Personal Injury Lawyers at Slater and Gordon on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you back.
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