Reducing the number of horrific attacks on Britain’s livestock has always been Farmers Guardian’s ultimate aim.
Since the launch of Take the Lead we have been working incredibly hard to raise awareness on all fronts, from speaking about the issue at various events around the country, to nailing thousands of warning signs to gates and fence posts.
The campaign has been talked about on radio stations all over the UK, from Cornwall to Moray in the north east of Scotland and from Builth Wells to Belfast.
FG has been hammering home the Take the Lead message at every opportunity, including speaking to millions of listeners on BBC Radio Two’s Jeremy Vine show and to 10,000 dog owners at the Just Dogs Live event at the East of England showground.
The issue has also been picked up and featured by dozens of regional newspapers, walking, countryside and dog magazines, including Dogs Today and Dogs Monthly.
Right from the start it has been FG’s intention to get the message across to the public that their dogs could potentially cause stress, damage and, in the worst case, kill, and that they must keep them on a lead when out in the countryside.
Partnered by the National Sheep Association (NSA) and British Veterinary Association (BVA), with signs sponsored by Caltech Crystalyx, FG launched Take the Lead as an awareness drive aimed at working alongside dog owners rather than alienating them.
The campaign has received a phenomenal response so far and scores of dog owners have been genuinely surprised at the scale of the problem, with many completely unaware of the consequences a loose dog can have on livestock.
Head of policy at the Countryside Alliance Sarah Lee said: “The Countryside Alliance is proud to be associated with the Take the Lead campaign which benefits dog owners and farmers alike.
“Providing information and talking about sheep worrying is vital to raising awareness of the problem and hopefully lowering the distressing incidences. Everyone’s goal should be to see healthy dogs and healthy livestock, both managed responsibly and sensibly. The Take the Lead campaign will go a long way to making that happen.”
Some of the worst affected areas for dog attacks on livestock have been in the fells around west Cumbria and the Lake District.
South Lakes MP Tim Farron said: “I think the Take the Lead campaign has been a big success and I want to pay tribute to the Farmers Guardian for all their work on this. I would now like the campaign to be supported by the Government and for them to make it a real priority.”
On Dartmoor, where farmers have already experienced 35 attacks since January, moors livestock protection officer Karla McKechnie said continued education was vital.
She said: “I think promoting responsible dog ownership is absolutely key, even educating young children in schools with the hope they may say to their parents ‘should we be letting the dog off the lead’?
“Farmers are rightly frustrated and many are taking their stock off the moors because of the financial cost of dog attacks, never mind the emotional distress they cause.”
Ms McKechnie fears as more people swap holidays abroad for breaks to the countryside the problem could get even worse.
“Moorland such as Dartmoor is stocked pretty much all-year-round and I hope people take notice of the campaign message at all times, not just in the busy summer months such as August Bank Holiday.”
The BVA is already working to promote the campaign in the travel pages of national newspapers and magazines, in the hope dog owners holidaying in the countryside will stop and take notice of the Take the Lead message.
However, there is still a long way to go and FG will continue to work hard to get the message across to owners that keeping their dogs on a lead is the only option.
Farmers Guardian has been working with NSA to lobby police forces and local authorities to receive assurances they are taking the issue of livestock worrying seriously.
Letters have been sent to all UK police forces, police and crime commissioners and local authorities in the UK, as well as the PCC equivalents for Northern Ireland and Scotland, raising the issue of the rise in cases of sheep worrying and underlining the severity and importance of the problem.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “The response we have had from police forces and PCCs has been very positive. Most seem sincerely interested in finding ways to tackle sheep worrying more effectively, and there is some good work being done out there to address the problem.
“The relationship between farmers and the police has not always been the easiest, but there seems to be a drive from police to improve relations and encourage information sharing.”
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, Farmers Guardian,
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.