Ex England rugby player slammed for mocking dog attacks on sheep

An ex England rugby player has faced a strong backlash from the farming community after he mocked dog attacks on sheep.

Hannah Binns
News Reporter
clock • 5 min read
Ex England rugby player slammed for mocking dog attacks on sheep

An ex England rugby player has faced a strong backlash this weekend after he ‘mocked' dog attacks on sheep. 

In footage shared on Instagram, and seen by Farmers Guardian, James Haskell made several 'jokes' about dog attacks on sheep after he was told to put his dog on a lead while out walking in a field with no sheep. 

"Where are the sheep that are going to die? I cannot see them," he said. 

"This is Bertie we are talking about, he could not maul a pillow." 

Mr Haskell also issued a statement of intent that he would kill a farmer and 'plough them into a field' if they shot his dog without reason in response to multiple messages from farmers pointing out it is legal to shoot a dog worrying sheep, and went on to joke about bits of sheep stuck in his dog's teeth. 

He later tweeted there were no animals in the field and said the person attacking him had mental health issues. 

Many farmers felt outraged by Mr Haskell's failure to take sheep worrying seriously and for making light of two serious farming issues. 

Zoe Colville, a farmer from Kent, said: "I, like most farmers, have suffered with mental health so for him to generalise the issue was really upsetting to see, especially considering how many farmers have taken their own lives in recent years.  

"Female farmers have fought for so long to become equal within industry, so for him to berate their appearance, background and knowledge for getting in touch with him to point out farming facts, while ignoring comments from male farmers, is unacceptable. 

"Sheep worrying incidents are happening week upon week but now half a million people will have seen his posts and not take the issue seriously. 

"It undoes all the good work industry has done to promote keeping dogs on leads in the countryside."


Charlie Beaty, a mixed farmer from Warwickshire, said she was a big rugby fan and had always admired James, but his attitude towards farmers who tried to highlight the seriousness of livestock worrying this weekend was pretty appalling. 

"When you have a platform of that size, you really need to be aware of what you are promoting and saying," Ms Beaty said. 

"His response was not responsible and many people will walk away thinking they do not need to put a dog on a lead and that farmers are making a big deal of these attacks, when in fact these incidents do not get covered in general media enough." 

Mr Haskell later shared a 'sheep gate' video on Twitter, branding social media a toxic environment when people take comments out of context. 

"I was walking my dog on a public footpath in the middle of nowhere with no livestock and a busy body came out and said you need to put your dog on a lead, and he was just old and miserable and wanted to have a go for no reason," Mr Haskell said.  

"I told the 'funny story' on social media and I have been bombarded with people who were saying I do not understand, dogs are killing so many animals, and I was like yeah that is awful [..] and I agree with everything. 

"[But] there were no animals anywhere near anything, people were telling me they would shoot me, shoot the dog, and I have been bombarded by female farmers who are not listening to anything telling me all these ‘sob stories' and sending me pictures of bloody sheep and attacking me, so I spent yesterday having a few beers and mugging people back off." 

Jemma Harding, who was a victim of a dog attack a few weeks ago, tweeted in response: "You did not put it like that. 

"You made a joke out of livestock worrying and blocked people who tried to make you understand and made a statement of intent that you would kill a farmer and plough them into a field, then went on to be offensively sexist towards people." 

Other farmers highlighted the damage dogs off leads can cause to crops and wildlife, such as ground-nesting birds. 

'Mob Mentality' 

Mr Haskell also called out the 'mob mentality' on Instagram, asking for people to stop sending images of dead animals. 

"Get off social media unless you have education or tips to share, products to sell or quality content to pass on," Mr Haskell said. 

In response to the social media activity this weekend which dismissed the importance of keeping a dog on its lead near livestock, a National Sheep Association spokesperson said: "We would like to remind the general public once again that the threat of a dog chasing, worrying and attacking sheep is not a matter to joke about. 

"For a farmer and their flock, it is extremely serious causing anxiety and great upset to those affected." 

NSA urged people to keep their dogs on a lead while out enjoying the countryside. 

Farmers Guardian 'Take The Lead' Campaign


Farmers Guardian has 1,000s of livestock worrying signs which you can nail to gateposts or fenceposts near footpaths to highlight the problem to walkers.

If you would like some of these signs, please send a stamped, self-addressed A4 envelope to

FG Take the Lead, Farmers Guardian,

Unit 4, Fulwood Business Park,

Preston, Lancashire,

PR2 9NZ.

You will need at least three First Class or Second Class stamps on to cover postage costs.

We will be able send up to 25 signs.