Some hill farmers are opting to stay off their lands at weekends because of trouble with recreational users, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has claimed.

Warning that the unprovoked attack on Co Wicklow hill farmer Pat Dunne should not be considered an isolated incident, INHFA deputy president Pheilim Molloy said intimidation and the threat of violence was not uncommon for those farming uplands and commonage ground.

“Unfortunately, this problem is growing and we have been told that in Kerry some farmers are not going to their own mountains at the weekend because they want to avoid conflict with walkers,” Molloy said.

He pointed out that 60% of respondents to an INHFA survey last summer indicated that they had been verbally abused by recreational users of their lands.

While no farmers indicated that they had been attacked, Molloy said the comments recorded in the survey confirmed that verbal abuse and threats were frequent occurrences.

A number of farmers reported that they had been told to “mind my own f***ing business” when they challenged visitors on dog control, the survey found.

One farmer told how a group insisted that “they definitely were not going to abide by [the] requirement to not bring dogs”.

“I backed off because there were three of them and I was on my own,” the farmer stated in the survey.

The most chilling warning involved a farmer who was told by a group that they were “going home for a gun to shoot my cattle and a knife to gut me like a fish”.

Molloy offered “every good wish” to Pat Dunne and his family.

“Hopefully, they can move on from what was a very traumatic experience,” he said.

The INHFA has called for all non-working dogs to be banned from open upland areas and enclosed farmlands.

“Legislation in this area needs to involve considerable fines for those caught with non-working dogs on farmland, and this should also be considered as a criminal offence,” Molloy maintained.