Police wrong to ram calf Beau Lucy and should have steered it to 'place of safety', says farming minister

Updated

Britain’s farming minister says police were wrong to ram ten-month-old calf Beau Lucy who was out on the loose.

Sir Mark Spencer, himself a farmer, said the police should have steered the animal to a “place of safety” rather than hit it with their vehicle.

But he stressed that he did not want to condemn the police officer involved as this individual was unlikely to have had the skills to deal with cattle.

The minister told Times Radio: “Clearly having a lifetime of managing cattle the first thing you need to do is not panic.

“It’s to stay calm because the animals pick up on your intensity.

“Obviously those police officers were not experienced in handling cattle.

“In my opinion they made the wrong decision to ram the animal with their vehicle, they should not have done that.

“It’s calmness that you need in those moments to steer the animal back into a place of safety, that is what they should have done.”

Beau Lucy was said to be doing “remarkably well”, by her owners, after the incident.

It is not the first time that a calf has been in the spotlight during an election campaign.

In 2001, the campaign was at least partly dominated by the foot-and-mouth crisis which swept Britain’s farming industry.

At the time, Phoenix the calf was due to be put down as part of the mass slaughter of more than two million cattle, pigs, sheep and lambs to stop the spread of the disease.

But Phoenix was spared the chop which led to headlines of “Blair saves calf”.

The police officer who used his response car to ram Beau Lucy has been removed from frontline duties, Surrey Police said.

The incident happened on Friday at around 8.55pm after the force received reports that a cow was running loose in Staines-upon-Thames.

Deputy Chief Constable Nev Kemp said: “I fully appreciate the distress our handling of this incident has caused and will ensure that it is thoroughly and diligently investigated.

“In addition to an internal referral to our Professional Standards Department, we have also referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) for independent consideration.

“At this time, the officer who was driving the police car has been removed from frontline duties pending the outcome of these investigations.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly had asked for a “full, urgent explanation” as to why officers used the car to ram the escaped animal, saying it seemed “unnecessarily heavy handed”.

Beau Lucy, is “limping” but doing “a lot better” and taking medicine to treat her injuries, according to her farmer owner.

Online footage of the incident showed Beau Lucy in a residential street being hit twice by a police car, as a nearby member of the public shouts “what are you doing that for?”

Beau Lucy got to her feet after the first strike and being thrown metres down the road, before being hit again by the car a second time.

She then remains on the ground, with her neck and top half of her body appearing to be stuck under the car. Officers then get out to assess the situation.

The force said it had been alerted by calls reporting that a car had been damaged and the animal was running at members of the public.

Deputy Chief Constable Nev Kemp added: “I know there is much concern around the current welfare of the cow. She is now back with her owner and recuperating with her herd.

“She did sustain a large cut to one leg and cuts and grazes. She continues to be monitored by a vet and our rural officers are staying in contact with the owner for updates.

“I can confirm that on the night, efforts were made to contact local vets without success and efforts were simultaneously being made to identify the owner.

“Why these were unsuccessful and what more could and should have been done will form a key part of the investigation.”

He said the police had acted out of a duty to protect the public and that animal welfare was important .

He said “we know people want answers about how this happened and what led up to it”, adding: “I am committed to ensuring that we have a full understanding of what took place and why, and we will fully support any investigation.”

It comes after Beau Lucy’s owner, a farmer who would only give his name as Rob, described the incident as “quite horrific” and “wrong” and said “it could have been handled so much better.”

Beau Lucy was returned to Rob’s farm, located between the border between Surrey and Middlesex, on Saturday morning with bruises.

He said: “She’s a lot better. Time will tell because we don’t know what internal injuries she might have.”

Beau Lucy is “sulking a bit” and “limping” and she is also on antibiotics and painkillers.

Surrey’s police and crime commissioner Lisa Townsend, said: “There is much speculation on social media, which does not necessarily reflect the situation, which was ongoing for a number of hours, or the difficult decisions facing officers on the ground at the time.

“I agree the force were right to opt for a self referral in this instance, and I know they are also thoroughly evaluating the incident internally.”

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