A FARMERS UNION of Wales survey of police statistics has revealed that 1000s of sheep are being stolen from Welsh farms every year.

It is thought they end up being slaughtered in unlicensed premises before entering the illegal meat trade that operates in many large English cities.

Many are likely to be blow-torched to supply the ethnic community demand for smokies.

The survey revealed several rustling hot spots, including Monmouthshire where more than 1000 sheep were reported missing in the past year.

During the same period 487 sheep disappeared from the upland area between Brecon and Builth Wells in Powys, and 270 went from a farm at Llanllwni, Carmarthenshire.

Dilwyn John, who runs 900 ewes at Cwmtaff on the Brecon Beacons, told the FUW that rustling was a big problem in the area.

He estimated that over the last 31 years he had probably lost the equivalent of the number of sheep now on his farm.

“The survey results are extremely worrying and indicate that there are experienced rustling gangs operating in parts of Wales, who may be stealing to order,” said FUW president Gareth Vaughan.

He urged members to be very vigilant and report any suspicious stock lorry and trailer movements.

He also suggested that they might even use digital mobile telephones with cameras to record licence plates.

Members should protect themselves and their neighbours by ensuring Welsh sheep did not end up in an illegal meat trade that had the potential to damage the good reputation of Welsh lamb, he said.