David Blunkett described yesterday how he was trampled by an irate cow while out walking in Derbyshire on his 62nd birthday.
The former Home Secretary, who is registered blind, suffered a broken rib and bruising when the one-tonne beast spotted his guide dog, Sadie, and bore down on them. He tried to release the dog, but stumbled over before the cow fell on top of him.
Although bulls are considered as being particularly aggressive, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures show that, in fact, cows are more dangerous. Over the past eight years, 18 people have been killed and 481 injured by cows compared with 17 deaths by bulls and 123 injuries.
But Mr Blunkett was determined to make light of his ordeal. He said: "I know the public are furious with politicians, but I didn't realise that anger has spread to Britain's cow population too. A few more inches and Labour would have been facing another unwelcome by-election in my Sheffield constituency."
Mr Blunkett was with his son, Andrew, 26, in Derbyshire's Peak District National Park when the incident happened on Saturday. Describing the "attack" Mr Blunkett said: "I let go of Sadie and she shot off, the next thing I knew, I'd stumbled to the ground and the animal fell over too.
"She hit my side and broke my rib. Had her full weight of around a tonne hit me, I'd have been a gonner."
Mr Blunkett's fiancée, Margaret Williams, a 50-year-old GP, rushed him to a specialist who told him he was lucky to have escaped with such minor injuries. A spokesman for Mr Blunkett said the MP is still in pain, but is expected to make a full recovery.
"This was a one-off, there is no evidence that it was a co-ordinated attack," he quipped.
The news comes days after a previously unpublished TS Eliot poem emerged revealing the poet's deep dislike for cows. Eliot, a self-confessed "town-bred child", wrote that, above all, he hated their "stupid gaze".
A National Farmers' Union (NFU) spokesman said: "Cows are quite protective of their young and might not take kindly to people getting too close." The NFU advised walkers to avoid walking across fields, to let dogs off the leash and to walk calmly away should cattle attack.
A spokeswoman for the Ramblers' Association agreed, saying: "We would advise a common-sense approach. When crossing fields, don't get between a cow and its calf.
"However, we would also say that this should not dissuade people from walking along footpaths. These incidents are, after all, relatively rare," she added.
The MP for Sheffield Brightside returned to the Commons to attend yesterday's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting.
Mr Blunkett told the BBC the incident gave him in new insight into Labour's problems.
"I am almost a metaphor, I'm afraid, for what is going on in politics, I have a broken rib and am bruised all over, but am still walking."
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