THE Northern Echo is taking a stand against the devastating issue of livestock worrying.

A recent spate of attacks on sheep during lambing season has brought the issue to the fore and created a wave of anger amongst both farmers and members of the public.

In the modern day fight against the issue, farmers have also taken to social media to highlight the damage done by posting photographs of their injured sheep, some with horrendous injuries.

Now The Northern Echo, along with its sister titles The Darlington and Stockton Times and Northern Farmer has launched a campaign called Lead the Way to demand changes in the law to tackle the issue head on.

We are calling for the law to make it compulsory for dogs to be on leads near livestock, wherever the livestock are. The campaign also aims to raise awareness among dog owners of the need to keep their pets on leads – and make sure they are securely housed as many attacks are committed by lone dogs.

We are also encouraging farmers to report attacks to the police so a more accurate picture of the problem can be drawn up.

The campaign comes on the back of a report by the Livestock Worrying Police Working Group, which analysed the issue over five police forces across the country, including North Yorkshire.

The report described livestock worrying as a “major concern” for its stakeholders, including the National Farmers’ Union, especially as there are no national statistics because police forces currently do not have to record attacks.

Teesdale farmer, Jonathan Metcalf said the problem was getting worse each year and he recently lost eight sheep and the 16 lambs they would have produced – a total of about £3,000.

“It had a massive effect on my livelihood,” he said. “I think it should be law that dogs should be on leads.”

The Northern Echo:

Labour MP for Bishop Auckland, Helen Goodman, pictured above, and Conservative MP for Richmond, Rishi Sunak, have also backed the campaign.

Ms Goodman said the issue was a “serious concern”.

She said: “This is a serious concern to animal welfare and the wellbeing and livelihood of farmers across the country.

"When you consider that the steps dog owners can take to protect dogs and livestock are only small, the calls for stricter policing and sentencing from the farming industry are completely justified.

"We are incredibly lucky to have such a flourishing and established farming community around us, and we must be considerate and protective of the beautiful outdoor environment we have on our doorstep.

"Dog owners in our rural parts of Bishop Auckland constituency need to be mindful of our local famers and take the small but necessary steps to protect the welfare of these animals and our local farming economy.”

Mr Sunak shared Ms Goodman’s views calling the working group’s figures “something of a wake-up call”.

He said: "Livestock worrying is a significant problem for farmers in many parts of my constituency and the figures in the police working group's report are something of a wake-up call.

"All dog owners need to accept the need to keep their pet under control when out in the countryside and safely housed when unattended.

"I also call on farmers to make sure they report all instances. There is evidence that the problem is under-reported."