COUNTRYSIDE campaigners say farmers should be allowed to divert footpaths following a spike in livestock-related deaths.

Rural groups claim an amendment to the Highways Act 1980 would cut the risk of further accidents involving visitors walking across agricultural land.

They are calling for farmers to be given the right to temporarily divert public rights of way where livestock are present.

Daily Echo:

The New Forest has seen several incidents in which walkers have been badly injured by cows and other animals.

Dog owner Amelia Borelli was attacked near her home at Fritham after accidentally coming between a cow and her calf, which was hidden by bushes.

The cow plunged its horn into her leg, which resulted in Amelia spending a week in hospital.

In another incident a herd of cows was reported to have been slaughtered after launching an attack that put a dog walker in hospital and killed one of his pets.

Now organisations including the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and the National Farmers' Union have written to Rural Affairs Minister Lord Gardiner following a series of incidents across the country.

Mark Tufnell, deputy presidentof the CLA, said: “We believe our proposal will help save lives.

"There have been a number of tragic incidents recently of walkers being killed by livestock while visiting the countryside. Our priority is people’s safety, and by amending the Highways Act landowners will be empowered to take the necessary steps to protect the public.”

Stuart Roberts, deputy president of the NFU, added: “Sadly, we have learnt of several incidents recently in which members of the public have lost their lives.

"The countryside is a busy working environment, so we need to ensure that the millions of people who visit every year can continue to do so safely and responsibly.

"The proposed change in the law would allow farmers to quickly, easily and temporarily divert public rights of way where livestock are present to further reduce the risks.”

Daily Echo:

Head of Politics at Countryside Alliance James Legge said: “The law must recognise that the countryside is a place of work as well as recreation.

"The current Highways Act fails to balance the needs of farmers and land managers to raise livestock while also being able to take necessary steps to protect public safety.

"The proposed change in the law would enable farmers and land managers to raise livestock and protect public safety, without reducing the ability of the public to enjoy the countryside.

"The government needs to recognise the problem and act to ensure the law is fair and workable, and most importantly helps prevent any further tragic loss of life.”

Robert Martin is national vice-president of the Tenant Farmers' Association.

He said: "The devastating loss of life that we have experienced recently in the countryside could be prevented easily by taking the simple and reasonable approach we have outlined.

"We want walkers to be able to enjoy the countryside safely alongside farmers going about their day-to-day business.”