Angry farmer hits out after sheep are killed

Neil Harland, who has had seven sheep killed by drivers this year
Neil Harland, who has had seven sheep killed by drivers this year

A DANBY farmer is appealing for drivers to take greater care after two of his sheep were left dying by the side of the road.

Neil Harland is a hobby farmer on the moors near Danby, where he breeds black-faced sheep.

His livestock roams freely on the landscape, as has occurred for hundreds of years, but said he is growing tired of reckless drivers who have “forgotten that they have a responsibility when driving through the moors”.

“I’ve lost seven sheep already this year,” he said.

“It’s happening quite often so you kind of get hardened to it, but I do get angry when farmers are, quite rightly, held up if they’re being cruel to their animals, yet motorists just seem to get away with it.”

The latest incident occurred on Saturday, when two animals were hit by a vehicle and hidden a short distance away from the road, with one of the animals still alive.

Mr Harland said: “At about 5pm on Saturday I was out in the fields working and a farming colleague left a message on my answerphone saying ‘I think a couple of your sheep have been run over’.”

“Normally when a sheep’s run over it is left by the side of the road, but these were eight to 10 metres from the road so I didn’t see them at first.

“When I found them on Monday morning I couldn’t determine any outer injuries.

“One had a loose horn and the other had a broken neck.

“If you looked at them you couldn’t see any other injuries, however it was obvious that one of them had been alive for some time after the accident because you could see where its feet had been scratching about.”

The accident occurred just 300 metres from Mr Harland’s farm, but he said that the driver had made no attempt to contact anyone about the incident.

He said: “We’re the only farm on the moor, so the sheep are highly likely to belong to me.

“There was no note when I got back, the police haven’t been informed – which they’re legally obliged to do – and no vets have been called.

“I’ve had instances where sheep have been left in the gutter, still alive, and no-one’s owned up to it.

“What I would really like the police to do is throw the book at them because people seem to have forgotten that they have a responsibility when driving through the moors.

“I live on a very straight stretch of road and people just speed the whole way down there, and the first we know about it is we find a dead sheep by the road.

“It’s very rare we find out who does it and the costs to me are quite substantial.”

When not running his computer technician business, Mr Harland tends to his a flock of around 150 sheep.

The animals are “hefted”, which means they stay in the area where they were born.

On the open moor this is a valuable trait, but it does make the animals more expensive and each sheep can cost around £100.

If an animal survives the collision the farmer is also left with the vet’s bills, or it costs £20 to dispose of each animal that has been killed.

Mr Harland said that there are some handy tricks to help drivers avoid a collision.

He said drivers should slow down and take care if a lamb is on one side of the road, but the sheep is at the other, as a scared lamb will always run to its mother.

Alternatively he added that: “If a sheep has its head up at the roadside it can move anywhere, it doesn’t know the highway code.

“But if it has its head down it is feeding its face and is unlikely to move.”

Finally he said that there may be danger even if a sheep is not in sight as they often shelter in gorse bushes and will step out unexpectedly, giving motorists no opportunity to stop in time.

Whitby Police are appealing for information with regards the collision.

Anybody with any information regarding this incident is urged to contact PC1851 Simon Jolly of Whitby Police on 101, quoting reference number 12120026853.