Police have seized a vehicle in North Yorkshire containing 70 sheep they suspect have been stolen.
North Yorkshire Police discovered the vehicle at Wetherby services on the evening of Saturday 18 March. It was also running on red diesel.
It contained 67 sheep and three rams – all of which are believed to have been stolen from the Lincolnshire or Nottinghamshire area.
“We are currently working with Trading Standards across three different counties, and the HMRC road testing unit (which will be dealing with the vehicle),” said a force spokesperson.
“We have checked the tags and are contacting all owners in due course. The sheep were all taken to a secure location and checked over by vets.
“The animals have been recovered and the vehicle seized. Enquires are ongoing.”
Reports of livestock and poultry theft are filtering through which are directly related to the coronavirus and a perceived threat of food shortages throughout the UK.
As eggs are in short supply in supermarkets, a number of smallholders have reported the theft of chickens. A smallholder in Yorkshire has described the theft of 12 hens to her micro egg sale business as “devastating”.
Rural insurer NFU Mutual says livestock rustling has risen sharply in recent years. According to its latest annual rural crime report, more than £3m worth of animals were stolen from UK farms in 2019. Large-scale sheep thefts have seen a 19.4% rise in value since 2017.
Anyone with information on this latest crime, or who believes they may own the sheep, is asked to call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Top tips to prevent livestock rustling
Preventing rustling is not as easy as putting a padlock on a building or fitting a security system to a tractor.
However, there are a number of steps farmers can take to reduce the risk, and technology is now providing effective ways of tracing stolen livestock.
To deter livestock thieves, NFU Mutual advises farmers to:
- Ensure stock is clearly marked and records are up to date
- When possible, graze livestock in fields away from roads
- Check stock regularly and vary times of feeding/check-ups
- Consider a high-tech marking system such as TecTracer, which puts thousands of coded microdot markers into a sheep’s fleece
- Join a farm or rural watch scheme to share information about rural crime in your area
- Ask neighbours to report any suspicious sightings to the police, or to give information 100% anonymously to the Rural Crime Hotline on 0800 783 0137, www.ruralcrimehotline.co.uk
- Dial 999 immediately if an incident is taking place – do not approach criminals.