ROCKETING thefts of sheep and lambs and their illegal butchery in Warwickshire fields has prompted police to call for help to catch the culprits.
Since the new year 80 sheep or lambs have been reported butchered in fields and a further 29 sheep or lambs reported stolen from farms in Warwickshire.
A similar number of incidents have also been reported in neighbouring Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, and officers from Warwickshire Police are working with those respective forces as part of the investigation.
Carol Cotterill, rural crime officer at Warwickshire Police said: “Theft and illegal butchery of sheep is a serious offence, which causes suffering to the animals some of which were in lamb or with lambs at foot and financial repercussions to farmers. “Inquiries are currently ongoing into the incidents and we would urge anyone who has witnessed any suspicious activity or has any information that could help with our enquiries to please come forward.
“Members of the public should also be mindful of being offered meat for sale in suspicious circumstances.”
Police believe incidents are more likely to happen on clear nights when there is better visibility from the moonlight, and they also think the thieves may be visiting their target area beforehand in daylight to plan the crime.
The National Farmers’ Union is alarmed at the spiralling thefts and butchery.
George Bostock, NFU Warwickshire assistant country adviser, said: “The illegal slaughter of animals is abhorrent and we would urge anyone with information to get in touch with the police.
“Rural crime has a serious emotional impact on farming families as well as the disruption and financial burden it brings.
“Midlands’ livestock farmers rear animals to exceptionally high welfare standards and all of our members care about their stock – to witness this at home, during lambing season, is absolutely appalling.
“Shoppers should always look out for the Red Tractor logo and other assurance marks on the food they buy as it guarantees food quality, safety and standards.
Warwickshire Police is urging people to report any suspicious activity by calling 101.
Information can also be emailed to northwarksruralAlerts@warwickshire.pnn.police.uk or via Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555 111 or through its website.