Concern amongst Scottish farmers at rise in illegal rustling


  By a Newsnet Reporter
Sheep farmers are speaking out against a worrying rise in the number of sheep worrying cases.
Separately, the National Farmers Union (NFUS) has also urged livestock owners to be vigilant against what they fear is a further increase in the number of cases of sheep rustling.

Farmers and Shepherds do not see the two crimes as related, but are alarmed that both are apparently on the increase.

In the Lothian and Borders Police force area, there have been several upsetting and distressing cases of sheep worrying reported in recent weeks – some involving irresponsible dog owners not keeping their pets under control around livestock and one involving stray animals.

Mark Ross from Gorebridge, described the aftermath of a recent attack on his sheep in a field on the outskirts of Dalkeith, Midlothian: “We gathered up the [8] dead sheep. Another one which couldn’t walk had to be put down. There must have been more than one dog involved.”

“If I saw the dogs attacking the sheep, I would shoot them. I would not hesitate.”

The most recent case of sheep worrying affected Iain Orr on his farm at Standhill, Blackridge, near Bathgate. Mr Orr commented “Discovering sheep that have been killed or maimed by dogs is deeply distressing.”

Mr Orr has since worked in conjunction with NFUS and written to West Lothian Council and its access forum, asking for more support in tackling the problem.

Meanwhile in Perthshire, The Scottish Farmer magazine reports of “slaughter in the fields” after a farmer made a gruesome discovery of a sheep’s heart, lungs and liver along with discarded surgical gloves, in one of his fields. This crime mirrors a similar incident, also reported in The Scottish Farmer, where a sheep was stolen from a field in East Lothian and apparently butchered at the roadside.

It is thought that the relatively high value of lamb at present and the current economic climate, is leading to an increase in ‘traditional’ rustling incidents – where the sheep are stolen – and also the horrendous illegal practice of field slaughter and butchery of sheep.

Newsnet Scotland spoke to a sheep farmer in Lauderdale who did not wish to be named: “The increasing prevalence of rustling is very alarming.  Last month it was 20 Blackies from a farm in Peebleshire and the roadside slaughter incident at East Fortune.  In 2010 A farm not far from here lost 30 sheep from roadside fields, another had 7 ewes with lambs stolen from out of a shed at lambing time!”

“The worst I have heard of was 200 stolen over the course of a few months from a farm over at Cockburnspath.”

“I would just call on everyone, farmers and others living in the countryside, to please be extra vigilant and report any strange livestock trailers, vans or other vehicles to the police.”

“Most ewes are now in lamb and it is not right to slaughter them for meat. It is also highly irresponsible of dog owners to allow dogs to harass pregnant ewes. I feel heart sick when I hear of sheep worrying such as the incident Mark Ross had to deal with.”

NFU Mutual, the farm insurance agency, calculates that sheep rustling crimes across Scotland, England and Wales have more than doubled in the past 12 months costing farmers £6M in lost stock and income.