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22 May 2003

Woman in coma following an attack
by beef cows

(Filed 22 May 2003)


It was reported in the Daily Mail 21st May that a woman in Cumbria, while walking her puppy through a field near her home in Cumbria, was attacked by a herd of 20 beef cows. She was severely injured and was transferred to Newcastle General Hospital for brain surgery. The Daily Mail report recounts that the farmer, who was alerted by the noise that his cattle were making, saw the woman being tossed in the air. The newspaper states that the doctors did not know if she would make a full recovery.

This tragedy highlights the problems that farmers have been repeatedly stating in terms of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act and its linked draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC, 1).

From the Daily Mail article it did appear that there were calves in the field along with their mothers where the accident happened.

The draft SOAC does explicitly state on page 36

"Livestock can easily be frightened by dogs and may turn aggressive or panic, causing damage to themselves or property, or be a hazard to the dog or the dog owner"

and again on page 48 it states

"you must not take dogs into fields where there are calves or lambs present"

Land-Care would like to add to that the fact that young stock, that have been weaned from their mothers, may also take an aggressive approach to a dog that comes into their field. This is fact based on personal experience with the farm's own cattle. Fortunately I was near a fence and the young dog was quickly dispatched over it. I had not spotted the heifers when I went into the field on account of the terrain. The group of heifers came charging from a distance.

Basically livestock and access takers, especially those with dogs, do not mix.

One of the problems with the SOAC is that someone taking access on a livestock farm may not be aware of whether or not there are livestock in the field (and what kind of livestock) until they are well into the field on account of the terrain, when it is too late.

A further problem is that calves have the habit of taking themselves off to hidey-places, well away from their mothers. The access taker may realise only too late that he/she is in a field with cows and calves. Worse, this person may inadvertently come between the cows and their calves - dog or no dog that is not a healthy position to be in. Good suckler cows have strong maternal instincts - that is why they are good suckler cows.

At least in relation to livestock farms close to urban settlements where most access is taken, it really is important to ensure that access takers do not enter fields with cattle. Paths should be provided that provide access but such paths should be effectively fenced off from enclosed fields.

This tragic case, although happening in England, may help to clarify liability issues with regard to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act. Apparently she was walking on a public path.




1. Scottish Outdoor Access Code. SNH publishes consultation document.
(Filed 27 March 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).


Further Reading Recommended by Land-Care

Mylius, Andrew (2001). Access: the Reality for Farmers, Landowners, Foresters and all Rural Residents. LandCare Scotland, Vol. 1, pp. 3-18.
(Reproduced, with permission, on Land-Care, 11 November 2002, click here to view).

Mylius, Andrew (2003). Land Reform and the Access Code: Problems and Unanswered Questions.
(Reproduced, with permission, on Land-Care, 26 February 2003, click here to view).

Raeside, Terry (2003). Land Reform: Response to Scottish Executive Proposals for Legislation. Veterinary Hazards to Open Access to Enclosed Agricultural Land. LandCare Scotland, Vol. 1, pp. 33-34.
(Reproduced, with permission, on Land-Care, 15 November 2002, click here to view).

Will Access to Scotland’s Countryside be taken Responsibly?
(Filed 7 April 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).