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Covid-19 crisis slows livestock rustlers

NFU Mutual expects a resurgence in rural crime once Covid-19 restrictions ease.
NFU Mutual expects a resurgence in rural crime once Covid-19 restrictions ease.

The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down livestock rustlers, according to NFU Mutual.

Figures from the rural insurer reveal the cost of livestock rustling in Scotland was worth an estimated £130,000 last year – down 18% on the year before.

The UK-wide figure showed a similar trend, with claims for livestock theft down around a quarter on 2019 at £2.3 million.

NFU Mutual said although the coronavirus pandemic had slowed criminals down, a resurgence in livestock rustling and other rural crimes is predicted when restrictions ease.

“Last year’s overall fall is encouraging news to an industry which has worked hard through the pandemic to keep the nation fed,” said NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Rebecca Davidson.

She said tougher police enforcement may have helped reduce the amount of livestock thefts, and Covid-19 measures may also have deterred criminals who would have been easier to detect during lockdown.

“However, the latest figures from NFU Mutual’s claims are not a reason for complacency and we are deeply concerned this crime continues – even at a time of crisis,” she said.

“Modern rustling is a large-scale, organised crime causing suffering to animals, adding financial pressures to farmers and putting public health at risk.

“We are worried that when movement restrictions ease there could be a resurgence as thieves target the countryside again.

“We are urging farmers to remain vigilant and check stock regularly.”

Ms Davidson said although rustling was not a new crime, the scale of the problem has changed from incidents of a dozen sheep being taken around 10 years ago to reports of 30 to 100 sheep being stolen nowadays in a single raid.

She urged livestock farmers to follow NFU Mutual advice to deter rustlers.

This includes ensuring all stock is clearly marked and records are up-to-date, as well as grazing livestock in fields away from roads, where possible.

Farmers are asked to join a farm or rural watch scheme to share information about rural crime in their area, and to consider the use of a high-tech marking system, such as TecTracer, which puts thousands of coded microdot markers into a sheep’s fleece.

More information is online here.

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