As a well-known farmer and former international rugby player, Rory Best, is adding his voice to the 2022 ‘Right Side of Outside’ campaign, urging the public to respect the outdoor spaces used for agricultural purposes and the animals that call it their home.

OutmoreNI has said that it is delighted to add Rory’s support to its messages reaffirming that key issues in the outdoors such as livestock worrying, disturbance of wildlife, wildfires, irresponsible car parking, litter and dog waste still need to be acknowledged.

Best said: "I am thrilled to be part of this campaign and to use my lived experience farming to highlight the impact caused by those who aren’t mindful of the outdoor spaces they are exploring.

“As we enter the new season, more cattle will be born and the work on our farms will naturally increase. So, to have a car blocking an entrance or a dog off a leash scaring newborn lambs can cause great distress within the farming community.

"As farmers, we love the outdoors and are keen to promote its beauty and ability to provide an escape to many, but we must educate the public on the simple steps they can take to help protect the outdoors and our livelihoods."

Outdoor spaces

Northern Ireland’s outdoors has experienced an unprecedented growth in visitor numbers since the pandemic began, according to Outdoor Recreation NI, the organisation behind the campaign.

While this growth is welcomed by the group, it added that it has generated significant issues in terms of a lack of responsible use of the outdoors.

Issues include visitors parking their cars and blocking access; dogs worrying livestock and disturbing wildlife; wildfires; people being ill prepared and needing rescue; litter and dog waste being left behind; and trash being left by wild campers, according to Outdoor Recreation NI.

All of these issues put a "massive strain on our outdoors and for those protecting our natural landscapes that make our adventures possible", the group said.

Chair of Outdoor Recreation NI, Dawson Stelfox said: "Our campaign last year had a significant impact by spreading awareness around the key issues we have been tackling.

"Whilst we are always keen to promote the outdoors and encourage more people to explore the beauty of Northern Ireland, we also want to educate on how simple things such as picking up after your dog, parking your car in a designated space to avoid blocking access, and being more mindful of those that use the areas for farming, can have a huge impact on protecting these areas for the wildlife that call it home and the future generations that are yet to experience it.

“As we approach the spring and summer months, we are keen to reiterate these key messages to promote responsible behaviour in the outdoors and more specifically in rural areas and open countryside where it is harder to regulate user behaviour."

In 2021, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) announced that 73% of dog owners are now letting their pets roam free when visiting the outdoors, which Outdoor Recreation NI said can be extremely disturbing during the lambing season because it can cause great distress, injury, or loss of produce.

Dawson added: "It is clear the love for the outdoors has grown which is fantastic to see. But we want to ensure the outdoors remains a safe space for everyone, public and animals alike.

"Together we need to share the outdoors in a respectful way and understand that the outdoors is a living space. Being more mindful and aware of the small steps to outdoor harmony will have a lasting positive impact."

Campaign support

The campaign is driven by a range of organisations with an interest in the outdoors including:

  • Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA);
  • Sport Northern Ireland;
  • Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful;
  • Northern Ireland Protected Area Network (NIPAN);
  • Mourne Mountain Rescue;
  • Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU);
  • Department for Communities (DfC);
  • Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL);
  • Northern Ireland Agriculture Producers’ Association (NIAPA).