Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

Livestock Worrying: Sussex

by Lloyd on 17.04.18 in Uncategorised
Mr Speaker when I was successful in gaining this adjournment debate on Livestock worrying I was questioned by some more metropolitan colleagues what exactly was livestock worrying. I can inform those colleagues that livestock worrying usually involves dogs chasing and/or mauling sheep or other animals. The direct attack can cause death or severe injury. The stress of the event can also cause animals to die or miscarry their young.
Mr Speaker when I was successful in gaining this adjournment debate on Livestock worrying I was questioned by some more metropolitan colleagues what exactly was livestock worrying. I can inform those colleagues that livestock worrying usually involves dogs chasing and/or mauling sheep or other animals. The direct attack can cause death or severe injury. The stress of the event can also cause animals to die or miscarry their young.

I think it’s important that I put on the record the contribution the farming industry makes to Sussex and indeed the whole country.

Farming contributes over £140 million to Sussex’s economy and employs 8500 people permanently as well as offering employment to thousands of seasonal workers.

Farmers manage 7,218km of rights of way across the county and many of these rights of way are close to the some 333,000 sheep, 96,500 cattle and 26,500 pigs who call Sussex farms their home.

Farmers in Sussex produced 140 million litres of milk last year, and enough wheat for 918 million loaves of bread.

Sussex’s natural beauty, proximity to London and Brighton and the ease of access provided across the South Downs makes the county particularly vulnerable to livestock worrying. Farmers look after over 62% of Sussex countryside and many public footpaths go through their land, so it’s vital that we establish measures to ensure both livestock and dogs are kept safe.

Livestock worrying needs to be treated as a recordable crime; dog owners must be given consistent information and act accordingly, farmers must report all incidents and the police must take them seriously Livestock worrying is one of the greatest problems affecting farmers in Sussex. Over 130 cases a year are recorded by Sussex police, more than the whole of Scotland, and the number is increasing.

Over the last couple of years, Sussex has experienced some of the worst dog attacks in history, including the infamous incident where 116 sheep were killed at West Dean, and another incident where sheep were driven over Beachy Head in 2015. The region is heavily populated and this combined with a grazing landscape, means there is a conflict between people, their dogs and livestock.

Since September 2013, there have been 497 recorded cases of livestock worrying in Sussex. Tragically, these incidents have resulted in 589 animals being killed. In the same period, a further 612 animals were badly injured. In 54% of recorded cases of livestock worrying, the dog owner was not present. 14% of recorded cases were committed by repeat offending owner/walker.

The blight of livestock worrying has cost Sussex farmers £66,089 recorded financial loss from killed and injured livestock, but only £2,254 total fined to offenders in court

Mr Speaker we are also acutely aware that the number of reported cases is only the tip of the iceberg. Some farmers report incidents with dogs on a weekly or even daily basis, but they often neglect to report it to the police unless it is a serious incident.

Mr Speaker I’d like to know from the Minister what plans are there to support the Police to take action against offenders and prosecute where appropriate, particularly with repeat offenders? What plans has his department made to ensure farmers can report attacks and improve signage and information provided to the public on farms?

Mr Speaker Despite the tendency of the law to back the livestock keeper, the problem is continually getting worse and there are very few prosecutions for livestock worrying. Public education and awareness has a huge role to play, as does getting a number of successful prosecutions which can be publicised as a warning to the less responsible dog owners. We are aware that all police forces are under pressure from severe budget cuts so there is an opportunity to work in partnership in order to address the issue.

Will the Minister consider an effective public education campaign to raise awareness? Further would the Minister consider developing a database for dog DNA and use DNA testing to help identify dogs that attack sheep? Will the Minister consider changing the law to require Dog owners to have an obligation to report if their dog attacks livestock?

Ultimately, it must be stressed that the number one job of farmers is to produce safe, sustainable and traceable food. They can only do this if they are able to farm safely and profitably and livestock worrying in Sussex is seriously affecting their ability to do this. For small farmers in particular, livestock worrying is devastating because it has a huge impact on their productivity. This problem is entirely preventable if there is simply enough awareness of the issue and it was dealt with effectively.

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Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

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