Police target marts in sheep theft crackdown

Police in Cumbria have carried out a three-day operation to tackle sheep theft, following a series of rustling incidents on farms.

According to Cumbria Constabulary, 328 sheep and lambs have been stolen across the county since the start of the year, costing farmers an estimated £40,000.

In an attempt to crack down on this crime, officers from Cumbria, along with staff from Trading Standards, targeted auction marts in Kirkby Stephen, Cockermouth and Longtown.

See also: Fleeced – police failure to tackle sheep rustling exposed

They stopped almost 200 vehicles and inspected more than 5,400 sheep to identify stolen animals, as part of the crackdown termed “Operation Meadow”.

Ear tags and documentation required to move sheep to and from the auctions were checked.

Sheep trailers were also checked against stolen trailer databases, and staff from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) were present to check the safety of the vehicles transporting the livestock.

‘Big issue’

PC Sarah Rolland, wildlife crime officer for Cumbria Constabulary, said sheep theft was a “big issue” for the farming community in Cumbria.

She added: “The financial impact to farmers when their livestock is stolen is hugely significant, not only due to the need to replace the stock stolen, but also because of insurance premiums.”

According to police, farmers welcomed police efforts to tackle sheep rustling. PC Rolland said officers would continue to carry out similar operations in future.

An investigation by Farmers Weekly earlier this year found serious deficiencies in how police forces across the UK tackle sheep thefts.

Our research found that despite hundreds of sheep rustling incidents reported across the UK, just nine of these cases resulted in a conviction. The conviction rate is just 0.75%.

Recent incident

Police are investigating the theft of sheep from a field between Great Strickland and Little Strickland. 

Rustlers stole 10 in-lamb Suffolk Cross ewes some time between 22 and 27 September. The sheep had yellow tags in their ears and a red dot marked on their fleece between their shoulders. Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.