Farmers are being urged to stay vigilant after sheep have been slaughtered and butchered in fields in a series of horrific incidents across four counties.
The warning has been sent to rural communities by police after several sheep were illegally killed by illegal meat raiders in the past fortnight.
The public is also urged to be vigilant of people selling illegal meat in their area, in particular local butchers who might be approached.
In the early hours of Wednesday, 6 March, a farmer in Harpole, Northampton, discovered five in-lamb ewes had been killed and partially butchered before the suspects were disturbed and fled.
The attack followed a similar incident 6 miles away on 28 February. Officers were called to Whilton, near Daventry, where five sheep were found to have been killed and professionally butchered in the field.
On Friday 1 March, devastated smallholder Julie Steele, 55, found the dismembered bodies of five pet sheep she had raised since lambs in a field near her home, near Melton Mowbray, in Leicestershire.
She told Leicestershire Live: “When I went into their field, I couldn’t believe it, all they had left was the skin, their wool, their heads and stumps of their legs. It was obviously done professionally.
“Hopefully, they were all killed at the beginning and the others didn’t have to watch the slaughter. I’m gutted, I can’t believe it. I cried.”
In Lutterworth, a number of in-lamb ewes were slaughtered at a family farm in Wibtoft between Thursday 28 February and Friday 1 March, just days before they were due to lamb.
Farmer Joy Deacon described the attack as “heart-wrenching” and “sickening”.
In Shropshire, farmer Andrew Bebb found five of his wife’s rare-breed sheep tied up in a field in Wroxeter, in the early hours of Wednesday (6 March).
He told the Shropshire Star that a gang was disturbed by a friend leaving the farm at about 11pm the night before. A large knife and other equipment were found nearby.
The family is offering £1,000 for information leading to the prosecution of the culprits.
On Monday 4 March, a dog walker discovered the remains of sheep in a field in Atcham, near Shrewsbury.
The sheep were stolen from a flock of 200 in a nearby field and hung with metal wires from trees. The animals were butchered for their meat at the scene and the inedible parts, including heads and skins, were left behind.
To help protect livestock and catch those responsible, rural police officers are urging people who live and work in rural locations to report anything suspicious.
Report suspicious activity
PC Abbey Anstead, of Northamptonshire Police, said: “To find animals have been killed and butchered like this is not only very upsetting for farmers, but also has financial repercussions.
“If you see something that strikes you as unusual, out of the ordinary or just a bit ‘off’, please let us know by calling 101 or making a report online.
“Please don’t worry that it’s a silly or trivial detail, as even a small piece of information may be a vital key that allows us to link other reports and bring those responsible for illegal activity to book.
“We also want farmers to be aware that this has been happening. If you suspect someone has attempted to target your animals, or find that you’ve lost livestock in this way, please report it to the police immediately.”
We’re urging rural communities to report suspicious activity after 10 sheep were killed & illegally butchered near #Daventry and #Northampton. If you see anything that doesn’t seem right, call 101 or visit https://t.co/rK2fZ3iiG6. In an emergency call 999. https://t.co/GAsg7Ev1Cq
— Northants Police (@NorthantsPolice) March 6, 2019
The neighbouring police force of Warwickshire has also recently had reports of sheep being illegally butchered in a similar manner to these incidents. Information can also be shared anonymously via Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555111.