Politicians fear farmers could go out of business after the family of a woman who died when she was trampled by cows was awarded almost 500,000 EUR in compensation.
The 45-year-old woman died when she was trampled by cows while walking her dog through an Alpine pasture in Pinnistal Valley in the mountainous Austrian state of Tyrol.
Her family later sued the farmers who owned the land who have now been forced to pay 490,000 EUR (427,091 GBP) in damages.
Austria’s Agriculture Minister Elisabeth Koestinger, herself the daughter of farmers, said: “Without question, this death was tragic.”
But she added: “Despite that I consider the verdict and of course the height of the sum of around 500,000 euros as highly dangerous.”
Stephan Pernkopf, the Agriculture Secretary for the state of Lower Austria, also criticised the verdict.
Mr Pernkopf said: “Our pastures are not an open-air museum, but rather a bone-hard workplace and an open air production site for valuable regional foods.
“Everyone must be aware of this, regardless of whether they are on foot or on a bike. It is self-responsibility. Therefore I have full support for the Alpine farmers.”
Politicians are reportedly awaiting the outcome of an appeal in the case before deciding whether to try to pass legislation to protect the county’s farmers.
The German woman who died in the cow attack was walking with her dog on a marked footpath through the valley in July 2014 when she was attacked by the cows.
An autopsy later showed the female hiker, whose name has not been released, was trampled by the cows and died as a result of her injuries.
The written court ruling concluded the farmer could have fenced off the area where his cows grazed which would have prevented the accident.
The farmer, whose identity has also not been released, said he would appeal the verdict which he feared would set a dangerous precedent.
His lawyer Ewald Jenewein said that if the ruling became final, it would have an “avalanche of consequences, especially for Alpine livestock farmers”.
Mr Jenewein said: “Free pasture would no longer exist as farmers would have to fence off every area where frequently-travelled paths run.”