Large-scale sheep thefts over the past two years have contributed to a 19.4% rise in value since 2017, according to rural insurer NFU Mutual.
This makes rustling the most costly crime for the UK’s farming sector after agricultural vehicle and machinery theft.
As well as causing untold suffering to sheep, which may be in lamb when they are stolen, rustling is causing high levels of anxiety for farmers who have built up their flocks over many years.
Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Rustling has always been an aspect of farming but ten years ago we would rarely see claims of more than a dozen sheep taken in one go.
“We are now regularly getting reports of fifty to a hundred sheep being taken in a single raid and it is devastating for farmers as they deal with the aftermath.”
“As well as causing untold suffering to sheep, which may be in lamb when they are stolen, rustling is causing high levels of anxiety for farmers who have built up their flocks over many years,” she said.
“Rustlers are getting more skilled and organised, quickly loading sheep onto trailers and lorries late at night.
“We are concerned that gangs are now using working sheepdogs, which have also been stolen, to get the job done.”
One of the most alarming trends which has developed in recent years has been the illegal butchery of animals in the field.
As well as the financial loss, these crimes are deeply disturbing for farmers and their families who find the remains of slaughtered animals in the field.
Ms Davidson added: “We believe that meat from stolen animals is being sold on the black market and undermining welfare standards.
“Meat which has been butchered in unhygienic conditions, and may be from animals which have had medical treatment, poses a real threat to human health.”Read full article Share on twitter