Animal and wildlife crime sparks concern for Bedfordshire's farming community
A number of incidents have been reported to police since the start of lockdown
Bedfordshire Police is experiencing an increase in animal and wildlife crime reports and is warning the county’s residents to be wary about purchasing meat from unregulated suppliers.
Since the start of the lockdown, the force has received a higher number of reports from the farming community. Evidence of cattle rustling has also been discovered at one farm near Bedford, where a pig was also slaughtered overnight and the innards left behind.
Other incidents include walkers trampling crops, leaving gates unsecured and loose dogs chasing cattle, sheep and deer.
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A single incident resulted in a number of sheep and lambs being killed and mutilated.
Inspector Craig Gurr, from the force’s Rural Crime Team, said: “This activity can be devastating to small farms, as the loss of crops and livestock can have a serious effect on a farmer’s livelihood.
“It is also worrying that potentially unsafe meat may be circulating for sale in the county, as the animals were not slaughtered at a suitable premises or with the right controls in place to ensure the safety of the meat.
“I would urge anyone who is approached to buy carcasses, or cuts of meat, to be cautious and to report it immediately to police or trading standards.
“If you notice any suspicious behaviour in rural locations, please do not approach, but immediately report it to police, and if you are walking your dog or are out for exercise, please respect the countryside.”
Oliver Rubinstein, Bedfordshire adviser for the NFU, said: "The majority of people using the countryside have acted respectfully and this is much appreciated by our farmers.
"However, the recent dog attacks on sheep shows that even the most mild-mannered dog can still see red sometimes, so it’s absolutely essential that they’re kept on a lead around livestock.
"The stress of being chased by a dog has a huge impact on the animal, regardless of whether they’re attacked or not."
If you notice anything suspicious, please contact police on 101 or via the online reporting centre on the Bedfordshire Police website, quoting Operation Sentinel.