Cows slaughtered and sold off after dog walker complaint about Peak District herd

A farming couple have sent half of their long-established herd of prized cattle to slaughter following a complaint from a dog walker that he was pinned against a wall as he crossed their moorland terrain.

Farmer David Thorp at the site where a herd of cattle belonging to Alex and Stephanie Birch had grazed on for 40 years but have had to be sold off or slaughtered after a complaint by a dog walker. Picture by SWNS.

The 30-strong Highland herd had roamed and grazed on a beauty hotspot which runs alongside a popular footpath in the Peak District for 40 years.

But last year one of the cows advanced on a man and his dog when they were out walking in Baslow Edge, Derbyshire, on the eastern fringes of the National Park.

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It was claimed that the cow then “pinned him against a wall” although no-one was injured in the incident.

Nonetheless, the dog owner lodged an official complaint with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Government agency ruled that the cows belonging to Thorp Farms Ltd represented a threat and had 
to be moved from the 300-acre site.

Although the HSE said it had not ordered the slaughter of the cattle, some of which had young calves, owners Stephanie and Alex Birch, of Gorse Bank Farm, said they felt that they had no other choice.

They claimed that relocating the herd was not a viable option for a number of reasons including significant costs, planning consent challenges and time constraints.

Mrs Birch said: “Four or five of the cows died after we moved them from moorland to grass, as they don’t tend to survive as well on grass.

“The complaint was taken overboard, as we have now had to sell half of our cows, and send the other half to slaughter.

“It is sad and frustrating this has happened. As far as I know, the complainant and their dog were not injured, so this feels like a knee-jerk reaction.”

Mrs Birch said people who visit the countryside need to “respect” the livestock they encounter on their own turf.

“We want people to enjoy the moorlands, they’re beautiful, and also want the public to respect the cows, as it is their home,” she said.

“The cows look intimidating with their horns, but they are really docile.

“The cows are protective of their young. If you saw a stranger approach your child, you would be over to your child very quickly, and that’s all these cows do,” Mrs Birch added.

The herd had been in the family for decades and were first brought to the farm, where they were left to breed naturally, by Mr Birch’s great-grandfather.

Mrs Birch has previously said: “In our eyes, we have not been given any evidence that pertains to any of the herd being aggressive. We think we have a safe herd.

“If you know cows you will know they’ll often walk up to you, especially if you have a dog. If you’re not used to that then you might back up and end up against a wall.

“But I don’t think I’ve ever known a cow to be aggressive and to pin someone against a wall.

“We don’t want to have to slaughter an entire herd of cattle that don’t sound like they have actually been aggressive. We’re annoyed and devastated.”

A spokesman for the HSE confirmed that the agency had acted upon the dog walker’s complaint.

The spokesman said: “HSE has investigated concerns raised in relation to cattle at Baslow.

“We have worked with the owner of the cattle and the matter has been satisfactorily resolved.

“We will not be commenting further on this.”