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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 06:37 GMT
Fears raised over animal attacks
By Doug Kennedy
BBC News Online Scotland

Shaun Macdonald
Mr Macdonald was thrown in the air and trampled on
A Highland farmer has warned that new right to roam legislation will increase the danger of serious attacks from cattle.

Shaun Macdonald, who farms at Conon Brae on the Black Isle in Ross-shire, has written to MSPs after he was crushed and had his nose broken after being attacked by one of his own cows.

Mr Macdonald had been tagging a young calf along with a cattle-man when the angry mother suddenly turned on him, leaving him black and blue.

He has called for the Scottish Executive to consider removing landowners' liability to prosecution in case the promotion of greater public access to land leads to accidents.

It needs to be taken on board that at some point we could have a fatality and then where will we point the finger?
Shaun Macdonald
Farmer
But a spokeswoman for the executive's rural development department said they did not foresee any need specifically to protect landowners in this way.

Mr Macdonald said the attack took place while he was tagging the calf in an enclosed space with its mother.

He said the cow rushed him without warning, tossed him into the air twice and bore down on him with its hooves and head, breaking his nose.

"With the help of Donald, who was with me, we managed to distract her and scramble to a hay hake and got away," he recalled.

"I got through to A&E in Inverness covered in blood and it was only as I sat and waited I was able to calm down."

The Black Isle
The attack took place at Mr Macdonald's farm
Mr Macdonald has now written to several Highland MSPs to highlight the risks related to plans for increased promotion of access to the countryside.

He said his experience, as someone who was well equipped and working under proper handling conditions, demonstrates the dangers that walkers and ramblers could face.

"It needs to be taken on board that at some point we could have a fatality and then where will we point the finger?" he asked.

Mr Macdonald said he provides facilities for school farm visits and backs the use of existing rights of way.

But he believes that if greater public access to land is to be encouraged it should not fall to farmers to foot the bill if this leads to injuries.

"Who will get prosecuted? The Scottish Executive should be prepared to accept responsibility should anyone prosecute for any unfortunate accident."

We have been at pains to stress that if someone wanders into a field and gets gored by a bull the farmer should not be liable
NFU spokesman

The executive spokeswoman said the Scottish Outdoor Access Code was currently being reviewed before being presented to ministers.

"The responsible exercise of access will not increase the duty of care of landowners," she said.

"The Occupiers Liability (Scotland) Act 1960 has therefore not been amended."

A spokesman for the National Farmers Union said: "We are waiting for the access code to be agreed but it is important that new rights do not increase legal liability.

"We have been at pains to stress that if someone wanders into a field and gets gored by a bull the farmer should not be liable.

Land reform

"With the access code we will need proper education and a decent network of paths to reassure both the farmers and the public that they can be safe."

Consultation has been taking place over the summer on the draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code is to promote responsible behaviour by users and land managers.

The code must be approved before the statutory right of access contained in the Land Reform Act becomes law.

The right access to land and water is likely to come into force early next year.


SEE ALSO:
Outdoor access code unveiled
26 Mar 03  |  Scotland


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