Fourteen cattle that had wandered from their open grazing area in Trøndelag onto nearby railroad tracks were run over buy a cargo train on its way from Oslo to Trondheim early Monday. The horrific accident raises new questions about how Norwegian farmers control their livestock.
In this case, farmer John Egil Ulvin claimed his cattle had run off from the area where he was letting them roam freely at Ulsberg, around eight kilometers from the scene of the crash. He told state broadcaster NRK that he’d been looking for the missing animals most of Sunday. He found their bloody remains on Monday after the train crashed into them on the tracks between Ulsberg and Berkåk during the night.
“Parts of them were lying all over over,” Ulvin said. “It was macabre sight.” Some of the cows were also due to bear calves this winter. “Now we’ve lost a third of our farm revenues,” said Ulvin, who raises the cattle with his son. “This can be also be fatal for our operation.”
State officials were more concerned about how the animals suffered. “We had to destroy four of the cows when we arrived,” Svein Erik Morseth of the state fish and game authority Viltnemda. “The others were killed instaneously.”
“The scene that greeted us was not pretty,” Morsetht continued. “You can just imagine what happens when a large, heavy train drives into a herd of livestock. This is a tragedy both for the locomotive engineer and for the owner of the animals.”
Animal parts were spread over a long stretch of the tracks operated by state railroad operator Bane Nor (formerly Jernbaneverket). Heavy machinery and cranes had to be brought to the site to remove the cadavers.
The accident follows several massacres of freely grazing sheep, blamed on a wolf. Norwegian farmers with little fenced-in grazing land at their disposal traditionally set their livestock free on publicly owned land, often forests. They contend the wild grass is also better for the animals and their meat, with the grazing period running roughly from mid-May until mid-September.