Police urge farmer vigilance after cattle found slaughtered

Livestock farmers must remain vigilant, police have warned, after cattle in Worcestershire were found slaughtered and beheaded in their fields. 

The incident is one of a number to occur in recent weeks, including cattle killed with their hooves bound and left behind in the field. West Mercia Police reported other instances in the region where cattle were slaughtered and butchered, with just the heads and internal organs remaining.

The spate of killings comes as rural insurer NFU Mutual reveals that livestock theft last year cost an estimated £2.7m in the UK – a figure that has risen by 8.7% over 12 months.

See also: Cost of rural crime up £9m, as gangs target farms

Superintendent Andy Huddleston, who heads up the National Rural Crime Unit, said the situation was “deeply worrying”.

“These are horrific killings of livestock, and I would urge anyone who can help with information to come forward.

“Specialists from various agencies across the country are working together with West Mercia Police. The inhumane slaughter of these animals and impact it has had upon the farms concerned is terrible, and we are working to bring those responsible to justice.

“Together with NFU Mutual, we are calling for rural communities to report suspicious behaviour and, if you haven’t already, join your local rural watch scheme.”  

The slaughterings also raise questions around meat being sold on the black market. Hannah Binns, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said the organisation was warning the public not to buy meat from unusual sources.

She said: “It is alarming to hear about these deeply disturbing crimes and the impact on farmers and their families who find the gruesome remains of slaughtered animals in the fields.

“We are also concerned meat from stolen animals is being sold on the illicit market and undermining welfare standards. Meat which has been butchered in unhygienic conditions, and may be from animals which have received medical treatment, poses a real threat to human health.”

NFU Mutual advice

The rural insurer has issued the following advice to farmers to help keep their stock safe: 

  • Ensure stock is clearly marked and records are up to date 
  • When possible, graze livestock in fields away from roads or consider housing them
  • Check stock regularly – and vary times of feeding/check ups 
  • Consider a high-tech marking system
  • 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
  • Dial 999 immediately if an incident is taking place – do not approach criminals
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