Campaigns

Our group, COWS, formed a year ago. Since then, we have spent months gathering data, reading stories reported to us via this website, and reviewing news reports on the net. As well as shocking stories of serious injuries, many people have told us about walks ruined by terrifying encounters with cattle. Some have given up walking in the countryside altogether.

This is unacceptable. It is time to demand action.

In an ideal world, we would like cattle to be separated from all public footpaths, but we recognise the challenges involved with this, and so have come up with three, achievable, aims.

  1. Compulsory public liability insurance for all farmers who keep livestock.
  2. Cattle to be separated from walkers on our National Trails.
  3. A central database to record all incidents of cattle attacks across England and Wales.

Now, we’ll examine our aims in more detail, explaining why we have chosen them.

All famers should have compulsory public liability insurance
1. All farmers who keep livestock to have public liability insurance.

Everybody who has been injured by cattle has the right to fair compensation.

This is not so victims can make money or “profit” from their accident, but to obtain general damages to compensate for the pain and suffering they have gone through during and after the attack. They should also receive reimbursement for any financial expenses they may have incurred through their injuries (such as travel costs for medical appointments, personal care at home, etc.), and for any financial losses if they were unable to work for a period.

It is possible a victim may suffer from a permanent disability that will need lifelong expensive care and treatment. An incident may not just impact on the victim, but on family who may be financially dependent on the victim. What would be their immediate and future situation it the cattle owner was not able to meet their justifiable claims?

It may come as surprise to you to learn that public liability insurance is not already compulsory for business. It should be

If the farmer has insurance, you may find a firm of solicitors willing to take on your case on a “no win, no fee” basis, and as long as your claim is reasonable you will, eventually, come to a settlement with the insurance company. If the farmer does not have insurance, you will find it hard to secure legal representation, and the whole process is much more difficult, especially if the livestock owner claims they have no assets.

You can read stories about the difficulties involved in suing livestock owners by following links from our page: Injured by cattle – should I sue?

Just as car drivers are required to have insurance, so too should owners of livestock. We want this to be a compulsory legal requirement.

Cows should be kept off national trails
2. Cattle to be separated from walkers on our National Trails.

In an ideal world, we would like cattle to be separated from all public footpaths, but recognise the challenges involved in this, and so we have singled out the National Trails as a special case.

There are 16 National Trails in England and Wales. They are our most famous footpaths, internationally recognised and renowned, and attract over 80 million visitors a year. People travel from all over the world to walk them.

Many walkers only join the trails for short distances. The paths are promoted as tourist attractions, and casual walkers expect to find the paths accessible and enjoyable.

Meanwhile, an estimated 80,000 people every year complete the whole length of a trail, some carrying tents and heavy backpacks, while others sleep in pre-booked accommodation along the way. These long-distance walkers accept that hiking a National Trail is challenging. That is part of the joy of walking them. The paths cross wild and remote places, where the terrain is rough and the weather may be unpredictable. That’s enough to worry about. They shouldn’t have to worry about cattle too.

Everybody using our National Trails expects a path that is well signposted and maintained, and they certainly don’t expect to be forced off the path by unconstrained cattle.

You can read more about our National Trails on the official National Trails site

Although there are many other footpaths crisscrossing England and Wales, the National Trails are a special case, and should be kept clear of cattle.

database
3. A central database to record all incidents of cattle attacks across England and Wales.

There is a shortage of good data on cattle incidents.

Cattle attacks are thought to be rare. We know they’re actually far more common than people realise. But the true scale of the problem goes unrecognised because of the lack of hard data.

We don’t know, for example, how many people are injured each year. We don’t know if particular breeds are more likely to attack than others. We don’t know if you are more likely to be attacked if walking alone, or if walking as a couple, or if walking in large groups.

When people do have an unpleasant encounter with cattle, many people don’t report it. Even if they do report the event, they may report it to any number of different bodies: the Health and Safety Executive, the Ramblers, the Local Authority, the landowner, the police, etc.

The best data we have comes from a couple of researchers at the University of Liverpool, who used information from newspaper reports. (You can read a summary of their findings here: Some facts and figures: When cattle attack… ) They called for “a well-designed, official system to document accidents”, because “evidence for risk factors could then be properly assessed, and used to develop better guidance to reduce attacks.”

We agree. We urgently need a central database where all official bodies record the data they receive about cattle incidents. Only then will we truly understand the scale of the problem and, more importantly, understand what we can do to reduce the risk to walkers.


In the meantime, if you have been frightened or injured by cattle on a public footpath, don’t forget to report it to us via our reporting tool.

If you have an opinion you want to share, do let us know.

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