Suffolk: Spike in livestock and allotment thefts as food prices continue to rise
THE contracting economy is being blamed for a spike in livestock thefts and raids on allotment plots.
Pigs have been slaughtered at the roadside by thieves who have dragged them from their fields according to farmers while allotment groups and gardeners have reported an increased number of thefts of vegetables and poultry.
They believe those responsible are eating rather than selling their gains and expect the situation to get worse if the financial climate failed to improve.
David Card, group secretary of the Stowmarket and Sudbury Branch of the National Farmer Union (NFU), said incidents of livestock theft often increase during “tough times”, but said he was shocked by the latest incidents in Rougham, near Bury St Edmunds.
In the space of four days three pigs were stolen from two different farms in Lower Gorse, killed and then dragged to the side of the A14.
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Mr Card said: “In my 25 years on the job this is the first time that pigs have been stolen and slaughtered on the side of the road.
“We have had rustling but this is the first time we have seen this. Abattoirs and slaughterhouses are a bit grim at the best of times, but doing it by the side of the road is enough to make your stomach turn.”
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The incidents are being linked by police and Mr Card said he thinks whoever was responsible would have eaten the meat themselves.
“Although I don’t think we have got people that have resorted to living off the land to keep themselves going, it seems that people don’t want to, or can’t afford to pay for their meat,” he added.
Derrick Holder, chairman of Suffolk Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, said that some sites in Ipswich had suffered a “horrendous time” with crops disappearing and chickens being slaughtered.
“I think people are stealing food and that’s going to get worse with the growing season coming and the economy like it is. It’s getting worse. We do all the hard work and it just goes, it’s very disappointing,” he said.
Mr Holder added that some fields in Ipswich had been forced to stop holding open days, believing some people were using the events to “suss out” what was on offer before returning at night to help themselves.
“The thing is I do have sympathy with these people if they’re doing it to feed their family. In the area there are 14 fields and 2,000 plots, I think if most of them were approached by someone who said ‘I cannot afford to feed my family’ we would be happy to help.”
Last year The East Anglian Daily Times reported how the theft of meat from supermarkets accounted for about a quarter of shoplifting offences in Ipswich. Officers from Suffolk police at the time suggested the meat was being sold on the black market.
A Suffolk police spokesman yesterday appealed for information about the theft of pigs from Rougham farms. The first incident took place on the night of February 9 between 8pm and 7am. Between 5pm and 9am on the weekend of February 10 to February 13, two more pigs were taken from another farm. Both pigs were killed and one was butchered at the scene.
Anyone with information should call Suffolk police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.