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Cow dies after suffocating on rubbish left by picnickers on Grantchester Meadows




A two-year-old cow has been found suffocated on Grantchester Meadows after it ate a plastic bag.

The cow’s owner said it was obvious the animal had struggled in its last moments and blamed picnickers who have left rubbish strewn across the meadows during the hot weather for the cow’s death

Grantchester parish councillor Maggie Challis added the amount of rubbish left by visitors this year was ‘horrendous’ and that the animal was the victim of people’s ‘merrymaking’ as lockdown rules were eased.

Angelika von Heimendahl from Camcattle with her cattle on Grantchester Meadows. Picture: Keith Heppell. (35828828)
Angelika von Heimendahl from Camcattle with her cattle on Grantchester Meadows. Picture: Keith Heppell. (35828828)

Owner Angelika Von Heimendahl, who grazes her Red Poll cattle on the meadows and Midsummer Common, explained: “We found the heifer dead on Friday morning and you could see from the way she was lying and the grass all trodden down around her that she had struggled.

“She was a really healthy animal and only two years old and it's just so pointless to lose an animal like that. I’ve been grazing my cows there for 15 years but it's not so much the number of people who visit that cause the problem, it's the amount of rubbish they leave.

“A plastic bag is the ultimate insult because it is actually a container that you can put your rubbish into and take it home and put it in a bin; if you have a bag why not use it?

“If people invade spaces or take spaces for their use that is fine as long as they behave in a way that is considerate and responsible.

“In my view the public is responsible for doing this, the landowners are not responsible for someone else's rubbish. It would be so expensive to employ litter pickers for the meadows it would make the space unusable. We should not need to have litter pickers on the meadows. I wouldn’t go into someone’s private garden, have a picnic and leave my stuff.”

Angelika von Heimendahl pictured on Midsummer Common in Cambridge where she grazes some of her Red Poll cattle..Picture - Richard Marsham. (35828863)
Angelika von Heimendahl pictured on Midsummer Common in Cambridge where she grazes some of her Red Poll cattle..Picture - Richard Marsham. (35828863)

The heifer was worth £900 but Angelika also had to pay £400 to have the cow removed and for the post mortem. She added that other animals must be suffering too because of the piles of rubbish: “I hate to think how many birds or fish have died from eating plastic or rubbish. You won’t find these animals, they are in a ditch or the river. But wherever you have litter then wildlife and farm animals die.”

Grantchester parish councillor Maggie Challis said that the number of visitors last week and the amount of rubbish left behind was huge.

“This year on the meadows has been horrendous for litter and rubbish. I understand why people are coming because they couldn’t go away for half term and they have been locked down for however long. But the meadows have been absolutely covered in litter.

Red Poll cattle owned by Angelika von Heimendahl, graze on Midsummer Common in Cambridge..Picture - Richard Marsham. (35828853)
Red Poll cattle owned by Angelika von Heimendahl, graze on Midsummer Common in Cambridge..Picture - Richard Marsham. (35828853)

"To be fair it could have happened on any year but the likelihood of it happened was increased because of the vast numbers coming. For some reason they are able to bring full bags of food but not take away the litter in the bag when they go. It has been a nightmare, the police have been monitoring and have tried to move people on. I do understand why lots of people have come to the meadows after being locked down for so long because it is a beautiful place but this poor cow has been a victim of people's merrymaking.”

One Grantchester business, the Cambridge Distillery, has been offering money off vouchers for its gin if people bring their rubbish to the shop rather than leave it on the meadows.

Will Lowe, from the distillery, said: “When I heads a cow had died as a result of having a plastic bag stuck in its throat I thought that was atrocious. We were brainstorming on how to keep things tidy because there is an enormous amount of rubbish left there by picnickers. “Rather than tidying up ourselves which would be a full time job we thought we would incentivise people to tidy up after the4mselves, we are doing a buy back scheme whereby for every bag of rubbish people bring back from the meadow we are giving them a pound off a bottle of gin from the distillery.

“The meadows are just a gentle stroll from the city so I realise that makes them effectively Cambridge’s back garden. Unfortunately that means people enjoy themselves and leave all the evidence behind.”

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