English sheep farmers call on UK Government not to follow Wales with electric dog collar ban
Farmers in England have written to the UK Government asking them not to follow Wales’ example in introducing an electric dog collar ban.
The letter signed by members of the National Sheep Association says that Wales, where a ban is already in place, has seen an increase in both attacks on sheep and the number of dogs shot by farmers.
In 2010, Wales became the first UK region to outlaw the use of electric collars, while Scotland issued guidance discouraging their use in 2018.
The UK Government has promised to follow suit this year.
But Phil Stocker, the chief executive of the National Sheep Association, told the Telegraph newspaper that “attacks on sheep by dogs are getting progressively worse and farmers are fed up with the trauma of finding dead and injured sheep and in some cases telling people that they have had to shoot their dogs.
“The solution starts with owners keeping their dogs on leads. But dogs with strong prey instincts must also be trained and, as the signatories of this letter say, it would be madness to ban an effective and proven way of training them to be wary of sheep.
“We are in favour of regulation to minimise any risk of misuse – but a blanket ban on e-collar training would be misguided in the extreme.”
His comments come after the NFU released data showing that Welsh farmers suffered £306,068 in losses from dog attacks last year compared with £68,408 in Scotland.
The Welsh Government however have said that they have no plans to review the position, saying that e-collars “cause pain”.
But in their letter, the English sheep farmers pointed to criticism of the ban in Wales by farmer Gareth Wyn Jones who said that “you have to be cruel to be kind” and that a collar stopping a dog from chasing livestock was better than having to put a dog down after it had killed a sheep.
“The Government is banning things because they believe that it is cruel, but what is crueller?” he asked. “For a sheep to be ripped to pieces or for a dog to have a little electric shock which is less than they get from a fence?
“These collars are a deterrent. You don’t have to be clever to understand that proper training can save lives – sheep lives, dogs’ lives, or even people’s lives as owners get into serious problems and we have seen people trampled when they have a dog that is chasing livestock.”
He added: “The Government has to go back and look at the evidence, they have to listen to the people on the ground.”
The letter by the National Sheep Association warns that the “view that these attacks can be stopped by instead training a dog with biscuits is naïve nonsense”.
It adds: “While we agree with Defra that using leads on dogs around sheep is important, the vast majority of attacks happen when a dog has escaped. So, it would be utterly irresponsible to ban the only training which prevents such attacks, and can avoid dogs being shot or destroyed.”
The letter claims that in Wales sheep farmers “suffer four times more attacks and have to shoot many more dogs than their counterparts elsewhere in the UK”.
“Above all the Government must not ban them. That would be an unmitigated animal welfare disaster.”
A Defra spokesman however said: “The Government’s proposed ban on hand-operated electric shock collars will protect dogs from these harmful devices which can be all too easily open to abuse.
“It is important that dogs are trained to behave well, ideally from a young age, and introduced gradually and positively to different environments, people and animals. Dog owners can prevent incidents of livestock worrying through keeping their pet dogs on a lead in the vicinity of livestock.”
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