Photos by Neil Barnes
Every morning at 11am, farmer Cameron Farquharson can be found atop Eggardon Hill, tending his herd of Highland cattle. Checking them over, feeding them and spending time with them, Cameron loves them.
Cameron had a particular soft spot for Gladis, who was due to give birth on May 29 last year. And she loved this Scottish farmer and would trundle after him, nudging his hand for a digestive biscuit and a cuddle at this National Trust beauty spot.
So, on May 27, when Cameron found his beloved girl lying face down a 30ft embankment with a broken neck, and her unborn calf ready to be born, both dead, he was distraught. Heartbroken.
His wife Miranda said: “Cam is a big, burly Scotsman and when Gladis died, he was reduced to tears. He cried. As did my daughter, Charlotte, who was planning to take Gladis calf to the Melplash Show.”
And when he learned that Gladis had been killed having been chased by two dogs, he was enraged.
Posting on Facebook at the time, a post which his team carefully edited to remove the expletives, and quickly became viral, Cameron wrote: “Our beautiful highland cow called Gladys was killed when some people recklessly allowed their dogs, reportedly Labradors, to chase her to death, killing both her and her full-term unborn calf. Gladis was an amazing cow. She was beautiful, friendly, kind-hearted and was adored. She was like a member of our family. We all loved Gladis.”
There is signage around this rugged but popular hilltop, urging walkers and visitors who may spot a problem with one of the livestock, to ring Cameron or the National Trust.
“Had I the farmer or the National Trust been informed at the time, Gladis would not have possibly languished all night in serious injury, pain and distress and we might have been able to save her and her unborn calf.”
Cameron’s Facebook post opened a tsunami of messages and support from 21.7million people. His phone rang and rang. One of those phone calls was from Stan Sadler, a generous farmer who farms in Scotland, and was devastated having read about Gladis. Stan gifted eight Highland cows and one bull to Cameron.
Cameron said: “At first I didn’t believe it, but I when I spoke to Stan, he was serious. I was hammered emotionally that weekend and started to cry.”
There are now 29 Highlands on Eggardon Hill. While Gladis found a special place in the hearts of all who knew her, most of Cameron’s cows are friendly, to the point that during lockdown, visitors would come far and wide to give them a stroke, a cuddle or just simply spend time in their company.
“These cows are friendly despite having long horns, but they have no spatial awareness, it isn’t malice.
“You might have to ballet dance around them as they whip round. These native breeds are imperative for grazing Eggardon, they encourage nesting birds and rare flowering plants to thrive.”
Cameron said: “Since Gladis died, I have had messages from farmers talking about their experiences of their livestock being chased by dogs, many with tragic endings. It made me realise we need a change in the law.”
Cameron launched a campaign to introduce the change in law, which secured the backing of West Dorset MP Chris Loder and Farming Minister Victoria Prentis. The Gladis’ Law Campaign has driven livestock worrying to the forefront of upcoming legislation and seen extra protections for livestock included within the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill.
The Bill passed its first reading in the House of Commons last summer and the campaign group hope the law will be passed in May.
If passed, the law will mean dog walkers facing criminal prosecution if their dog chases any livestock to the point of causing harm or abortion, if their dogs is off their lead or out of control in a field of sheep, poultry, or enclosed game birds.
Cameron added: “Livestock call their field their home and they should feel safe in their home. Gladis was chased to her death. I just pray it was quick.”