Defra Secretary Michael Gove has said the Government is ‘reflecting’ on how best to crack down on livestock worrying.
He made the remarks at a Countryside Alliance event at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this week.
“There are individuals whose behaviour is of huge concern because of the way in which they do not respect the working nature of the countryside,” Mr Gove said.
“One of the important things we can do is develop a better understanding of what it is to run a rural business and how some of the thoughtless behaviour of individuals can cause harm and difficulty and devastation.
“Hare coursing and the impact unmanaged dogs have is particularly concerning, and we are reflecting on what more we can do and how we can empower the police to deal effectively with it.”
Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee Neil Parish, who joined Mr Gove on the panel at the CA event, agreed better policing strategies would need to be in place as more of the countryside is opened up to the public by measures in the Agriculture Bill.
He said: “We will have to reassure the farming community as we do create more access that we are going to be able to police this.
“I have had lots of sheep over the years savaged by various dogs. It is horrendous what happens and these are real things. We have got to be able to manage that.
“It is right and laudable to open up the countryside, but very difficult to police and these people do not necessarily take kindly to being told what for.”
Mr Gove also promised Defra would publish some recommendations on how to tackle fly-tipping and waste management next month.
But Tim Bonner, chief executive of the CA, warned many farmers believe the department has skewed priorities when it comes to rural crime.
“Poaching, fly-tipping and sheep worrying, wherever you go in the countryside, those three will be raised,” he said.
“But what are Defra’s priorities? Defra brought forward a consultation this year on banning invisible electric fences for dogs in gardens.
“Is that a priority? It is not an issue, and it is stuff like this which my members look at and think why are you doing that? This is not the thing which is affecting our lives.”
We have 1,000s of livestock worrying signs which you can nail to gateposts or fenceposts near footpaths to highlight the problem to walkers.
If you would like some of these signs, please send a stamped, self-addressed A4 envelope to:
FG Take the Lead
Unit 4, Fulwood Business Park
You will need at least three First Class or Second Class stamps on to cover postage costs. We will be able send up to 25 signs.