An Austrian mountain farmer whose cows trampled a German tourist to death has been ordered to pay the woman’s family €490,000 (£425,550) in damages.
Austria’s Chamber of Agriculture voiced alarm, saying the hefty fine could prompt farmers to close many footpaths, rather than install expensive fencing.
The farmer in Pinnistal, a Tyrolean valley, is appealing against it.
Austrian fines for cow stampedes are usually about €30,000 maximum. The woman was walking a dog on a lead.
Austrian media report that the cows charged apparently defensively, as they had calves with them. The dog’s lead was clipped to the woman’s belt.
But the Innsbrück court concluded that the woman was not to blame for the deadly stampede in July 2014.
Will footpaths be closed?
The court ruled that the farmer’s warning signs about cows grazing were insufficient. There should have been fences at the place where the German tourist died, the judges said.
But the Chamber of Agriculture warned the verdict, if upheld, “will have a huge impact on tourism and farming above all in the Alpine regions” – especially, it said, as farmers in the region had annual incomes of €20,000 or less, on average.
“Footpaths across meadows and pastures would have to be fenced off, and made inaccessible to walkers,” the statement explained.
“An obligation to put up fences would be economically unreasonable for farmers and would, in many places, mean the end of pastoral farming.”
The statement also called it “an extremely tragic incident”.
Avoiding a cow attack
- Cattle, especially young stock, are inquisitive and will often follow walkers. But it is cows, who feel naturally very protective of their calves, that can be more than inquisitive
- Do not panic if you are followed, walk calmly and quickly away from the herd
- If you are walking with your family dog on a footpath and find that there are cattle on the path, avoid going straight through them
- Take a wide detour and walk calmly around the animals with your dog on a lead
- Do not walk between a cow and her calf
- If the cattle move towards you and you feel threatened by them, release your dog from the lead and move quickly, but calmly, to safety
Source: National Farmers’ Union