There are many fields with unrestricted access, as public or private rights of way, and often cattle can be seen grazing nearby. Whilst passers-by can usually walk past a herd of cows without any problem, cattle can be unpredictable and many wouldn’t know how to react if the herd began to stampede towards them.
Tragically, cattle-related deaths have taken the lives of 74 people in the past 15 years, according to figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), whilst many others have been subject to injuries including fractures from actions such as kicking, head-butting and trampling from the offending bovine. Farmers and farm workers are particularly at risk due to their frequent exposure to their herd and make up the majority of fatalities but a number of ramblers have also been injured and killed in cattle-related attacks.
Are you responsible if your cattle attacks someone?
The Animals Act 1971 states that owners are ‘strictly liable’ for most injuries caused by their animals meaning that in most cases, you will be liable if your herd attacks a member of the public. In 2016, a farmer was ordered by the court to pay £30,000 in court costs after a walker was killed by his herd after ignoring numerous warnings to keep them under control. His herd had attacked ramblers on four occasions prior to the fatality, one attack resulting in a broken neck.
The farmer was given a 12-month jail sentence on top of his fine. His insurance paid out what was thought to be a six-figure sum to the partner of the deceased and £200,000 went out to the four who were previously injured by the farmer’s herd.
Building a line of defence
Farmers are advised to not put any calves or their mothers in fields which are accessible to the public, as they can get defensive if they feel threatened. Bulls are a particular threat, and many fields include warnings on gateposts if there is a bull in the field in order to warn the public to be wary. It was found that 70% of deaths were caused by bulls or due to cows protecting their newborn calves, so precautions should be taken in order to protect the public against this threat.
Correct signage is important if you’re unable to avoid keeping certain cattle from the public. Informing the public of any danger is the first step but you may want to consider adding advice onto signs to inform the public of how to recognise a potential attack and how to avoid confrontation.
So do you need liability insurance for your herd?
If you own cows which roam in public fields there will always be some element of risk to the general public, so it’s a good idea to ensure you are covered for public liability insurance. It’s best to check your current insurance policy to see if you’re covered.
To check you’re covered for public liability or to arrange additional cover, why not give our friendly and knowledgeable team a call on T: 01228 406290 or email us with your enquiry