There is no denying that a farm is a dangerous place. There are numerous pieces of lethal machinery and miles of unmade up roads and then of course there are the animals. It can be perilous enough for a trained farm worker to have to deal with cattle and livestock which can weigh hundreds and hundreds of pounds but since the introduction of "right to roam" legislation there has been an increased number of accidents involving members of the public who have found their Sunday afternoon stroll disturbed by the sight of a charging bull or stampeding cattle. The injuries suffered can be horrific and in some cases fatal. A landowner has a duty to ensure that the public are safe when crossing their land. Their main liability falls under the Occupier's Liability Act 1957 and 1984 and (where livestock are concerned) the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Animals Act 1971. A recent claim where a walker using a shortcut across farmland suffered serious injuries following an attack by cattle protecting their calves explained the approach that the Court are likely to take in such cases. The Court first considered the Animals Act 1971. For the Act to apply the Court had to look at the three stage test and ask whether the damage caused by an animal was likely to be caused by a characteristic of the animal which was known about by the Defendant The farmer was found responsible under the Act as 'aggressiveness' was a characteristic of cows with young calves and this was known to him. Secondly, it was found the farmer had not taken reasonable care for the walker's safety, as required by the Occupier's Liability Act 1957. And thirdly, the farmer was found negligent as had not properly considered that the cattle posed a risk to the public and had failed to adequately notify walkers of those dangers. Regardless of the practicalities the judge stated that either the footpath should have been fenced off or the potentially dangerous livestock should have been grazed elsewhere. He also commented that it was important for walkers to be given clear information at the entrance to a field and warned of dangers they face so that they can "consent" to any risk of injury. Signs by themselves will not prevent a farmer's potential liability to someone injured by livestock but they do show that the farmer took care to inform walkers about livestock kept in fields through which there are public rights of way. Signs help walkers to understand that livestock is being kept in the fields; so that walkers can act appropriately in light of the information they are given.
Staying safe on the farm