There are certain images which we all find synonymous with springtime… the rich yellow daffodils popping up seemingly overnight, like freckles on our grassy banks and village greens all over the countryside, and eventually in a vase on our kitchen table. Pub gardens, littered with people (possibly still in their coats…) cider in hand and smiles on their faces that infer that the cobwebs have been blown away by that fresh, rousing breeze.
Lambs: little cotton balls on matchstick legs stumbling and staggering in an open field, chasing ewes and constantly hungry or craving attention. Some of us are even lucky enough to be involved with the lambing process – and yes, you are lucky. It’s tiring, no – it’s exhausting, energy-consuming and can often seem thankless. But you are bringing life, sometimes saved by you, into our world and you’re helping protect our traditional British countryside.
However, there’s a darker side to the sunshiney image we all associate with the past few months. Livestock being killed by dogs isn’t a new predicament, it’s not something that has only just cropped up, out of the blue, spring 2016, to keep farmers even more on their toes. No, but it’s not going away either. Just thinking about the amount of cases I’ve read about this spring so far really hammers this point in.
Back in April I read an article on FWI about a farmer who lost 40 lambs in one attack. FORTY. Heartbreaking images next to words such as ‘savage’, ‘gaping wounds’ and ‘disturbing’. Philip Case, who wrote the article, states:
Rural insurer NFU Mutual estimates the total cost to the industry of sheep worrying attacks to be in excess of £1m. Figures showed the cost of attacks in 2015 rose by more than 35% compared with the previous year’
The article even references the 116 sheep lost in a suspected dog related attack near Chichester back in March. It’s truly harrowing stuff.
Image: Taken from an FWI article from 5th April 2016, see link below
It’s easy to simply read these stories, perhaps skim through, have a gaup at the horror and quickly turn over the pictures whilst exclaiming to those around you how awful it must be for that farmer, or that livestock owner. To not think that you’re really affected, not think that you’re involved. You are, though, because we all are. It doesn’t affect us… until we’re the ones out having a gentle stroll with our dogs, they’re off the lead – as always – we trust them, we’ve had them for years. Then it does.
We need to be more vigilant when we’re out in the areas nearby to lambs, and if we do need to go in those nearby areas then for goodness sake put the pooch on a lead. You never know, you simply never can know.
Communicate with each other; dog walking is a certifiable social ice-breaker. You can walk down the street with your head down, hands in pockets, talking to no one but your mobile phone all day but add a canine critter to the equation and you’re about to meet your new best friend (for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays that is, when you use that route, I mean you don’t actually want to socialise with these people. Heaven forbid!) Let them know where the lambs are, or when they’re coming. How old they are, how long they will be there, who to speak to with queries. Word spreads like wildfire in our country communities so utilise it for once!
Of course it doesn’t just affect your dog walks, what about at home? Can you honestly say you’ve checked that dodgy fence panel recently? Do we always double check the gate is securely shut? We probably should do all this, really. The safety of our companions is at stake, too.
So don’t just take it lightly, brush over the topic, forget it as soon as the page is turned. It is serious and it is here, on our doorsteps and affecting us all.
This is a borderline (?!) condescending post… to the point I feel like cringing slightly reading back over it. But not everyone is fortunate enough to be clued up on these matters, and every little helps in getting it that way. So I’m sucking it up, taking a deep breath and pressing send…
Image: Taken from an FWI article from 15th May 2016, see link below