Education is vital as lockdown restrictions and spring weather encourage more people out to enjoy the countryside.
The message came from legal specialist Linda Tinson, a partner at Ledingham Chalmers Solicitors, speaking at the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) Scotland conference.
Ms Tinson’s call was in response to a question regarding concerns over sheep-worrying, as we are in lambing season, but her message will likely resonate with horse owners who have also seen an increase in people wanting to enjoy the countryside during the pandemic.
Ms Tinson said it is a “great bonus” in many ways that more people have discovered the countryside, but the “flip side” is that people are “uneducated when it comes to the ways of the countryside”.
She added that a new bill that has gone before Scottish parliament, under which people can be fined up to £40,000 for their dogs worrying farmed livestock, can “only be seen as a positive”.
“There is a terrible ignorance around the notion of the ‘right to roam’. It’s a funny term, because it isn’t really a right to roam, it’s a right to take responsible access,” she added.
“I think it is about education. It’s about education of the livestock keepers as well, as you have to ensure your own animals are properly fenced in, for example.”
She added “prevention is better than cure, always” and also encouraged livestock owners to keep notes and report issues when they happen.
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H&H has reported extensively on cases where horses have become ill or died after being fed by well-intentioned but misguided members of the public, as well as cases involving access issues on people’s land.
A refreshed version of the Countryside Code for England and Wales was also launched by Natural England this month (1 April). This was in response to increased visits to the countryside as well as a number of incidents, many of which came down to a lack of understanding rather than deliberate acts of damage.
The full Countryside Code can be found on the Government website
For more from the RBST Scotland conference, don’t miss next week’s issue of H&H (15 April) or sign up to join H&H Plus to read online from Friday.
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