16 February 2000
Hidden horror of slaughter by thieves

By FWi staff

MACABRE crimes where thieves steal, slaughter and butcher livestock in fields may be more widespread than thought, agricultural insurers have admitted.

Most recently a 10-month old steer was taken from its cattle shed, dragged along a country lane and dismembered.

National Farmers Mutual spokesman Tim Price said his company was aware of around 12 such cases over the past five years.

“But its quite possible there are many more which havent resulted in an insurance claim and we havent heard of,” Mr Price told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme.

Other sources agree livestock theft and immediate slaughter is an increasing problem, especially where animals graze on common ground.

Mr Price warned said: “This country is supposed to be a civilised society and this sort of activity is outside the bounds of normal behaviour

“To our knowledge no-one has ever been caught who has perpetrated these crimes.”

He speculated that the meat is taken for the thieves and their families, or in some cases sold in car parks or by some other underhand means.

Mr Price warned that anyone buying such meat was taking a serious risk.

It would be impossible to know if the animal was fit for human consumption, or whether it was on medication.

And as the makeshift conditions of the slaughter and butchery would be completely insanitary, all sorts of infections could be transmitted through the meat.

In the recent incident near Standlake, Oxfordshire, the 450 Limousin steer was probably stunned or killed, removed from its pen, attached to a vehicle and dragged 400m along a secluded lane to a field.

There the animals hindlegs were removed, before the thieves, who were possibly disturbed, moved further up the road to another field where they disembowelled and butchered the steer.

It was here that the farmer discovered the gruesome remains of the steer over the weekend.

The animals forelegs and carcass from the ribcage backwards had been taken.

“I was horrified when I saw the remains,” the farmer told Farming Today. “Ive never come across this before and I hope I never see it again.”

He reckoned that the thieves took perhaps 100lb of meat.

The farmer doubted if it was possible to stop this type of thief.

“If theyre as determined to get an animal as these people were, I dont think youd stop them, because theres no way you could make a cattle building totally secure to keep people out.”

The NFU Mutual Insurance Society estimates from its own claims figures that rural crime cost 93 million in 1998.

Livestock rustling accounted for 4m.