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Unions says farmers must be protected by livestock worrying legislation

By David Porter

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Giving evidence to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee this week NFU Scotland vice president Charlie Adam spoke about the serious issue of irresponsible access-taking by dog owners which can result in injury and death to livestock.

NFU Scotland's Charlie Adam addressed the committee
NFU Scotland's Charlie Adam addressed the committee

The committee were discussing the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill as part of Stage 1 evidence-taking, and received evidence from NFU Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, the Scottish Crofting Federation and the National Sheep Association (NSA) Scotland.

NFU Scotland has welcomed the proposed legislation, which it considers strongly raises the profile of this issue publicly and which it hopes will encourage more responsible dog ownership.

It is felt that stronger penalties will act as a better deterrent to those irresponsible dog owners.

Livestock worrying is an issue which affects a large number of farmers and crofters throughout Scotland.

A 2018 survey found that 72 per cent of surveyed NFU Scotland members had experienced issues with livestock worrying on their land.

For livestock, it is not just the physical attacks by dogs that can cause damage; even allowing dogs to chase or ‘play’ with sheep or cattle can have serious affects on their long-term health.

This includes abortions and can render the animal unable to be used for breeding in future.

Livestock worrying can be extremely expensive for farmers and crofters.

NFU Mutual has previously reported that it paid out £1.6 million in claims for 2017 and has seen a 67 per cent increase in the cost of livestock worrying.

Current legislation does not provide for compensation, which can result in significant financial impacts on individual farmers.

NFUS is of the view that this is the single most significant issue which any future legislation must address in order to provide true recompense for the victims of this crime.

Unfortunately, due to the financial constraints of a Members Bill, it is not possible to include this as a provision.

However, NFU Scotland does view this Bill as a significant step forward on the issue.

Speaking after the evidence session, NFU Scotland president Charlie Adam said: “Livestock worrying is a massive issue for farmers and crofters in Scotland, with both the emotional and financial impact of incidents being devastating for those involved.

“The proposed legislation in this Bill is a positive step forward for the issue and I am hopeful that if it is enacted it will result in a reduction in the crime of livestock worrying.

“Having worked closely with Emma Harper MSP who has brought forward this Members Bill from the outset, we are pleased it is making its way through the Scottish Parliament and were pleased to feed evidence directly to the lead Committee.”

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