New powers to tackle livestock worrying will offer much greater protection and be welcomed by farmers who have seen incidents increase over the past year, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said today (June 8).

The changes introduced in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill gives more power to the police to tackle livestock worrying incidents and expands the scope of what is afforded protection.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said:

Dog attacks on livestock are horrific and can have a massive impact on farm businesses, both practically but also emotionally for a farming family.

"I’m pleased to see the government taking clear action to strengthen the law in this area to give police more powers and tackle a growing issue for farmers as dog ownership increases.

"This is something the NFU and its members have been working on for many years and it has the support of the public too; nearly 20,000 people have voiced their support for changes to legislation.

However, we would like to see the government go further in this area and implement increased fines. This can act as an appropriate deterrent and would also reflect the financial loss to the farm business as a result of an attack.

“We would also like to see a clear rule that dogs should always be on a lead around livestock. We believe the current wording that a dog has to be under ‘close control’ around livestock causes confusion for dog owners, farmers and the police."

Live exports ban

The bill also bans the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter, which raises questions about how the government will ensure trade deals also meet these standards.

Roberts said:

"It’s clear that the government has ambitions to be a global leader in animal welfare, an objective we support, but I would urge them to carefully consider how requirements set at home will be balanced when striking new trade deals.

While the ban on live exports was expected, it is concerning that the government is pursuing trade negotiations with countries that export large numbers of animals for fattening and slaughter.

"It’s imperative that if we set certain standards for British farmers, we ensure we do not undercut them in trade deals by imports that do not meet those same expectations.

"If we are to be a global leader in this area, we must hold our trading partners to the same standard and not simply offshore our consciences."