THOUSANDS of sheep have been stolen across Scotland by thieves who butcher the animals and sell the meat on the black market.
The modern day “reivers” – named after the sheep and cattle rustlers who terrorised the Borders in the 16th century – have stolen animals worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in 24 thefts from farms across the Borders in the past 18 months.
Police believe there may have been unreported cases in other areas of the country.
Yesterday, Police Scotland highlighted the case of the stolen sheep, with officers investigating thefts in the Tweeddale area of the Borders. The police are working alongside the Scottish SPCA and National Farmers Union Scotland in a bid to prevent further loss of livestock.
In Perthshire, a farmer discovered a sheep’s heart, lungs and liver alongside a discarded surgical glove. The sheep had apparently been butchered in the field and the meat taken away for immediate sale. A similar incident took place in East Lothian, where a sheep was stolen and butchered by the roadside.
It was reported in December that a farmer, who did not wish to be named, had 20 Blackies stolen from a farm in Peeblesshire, while 200 sheep were taken over several months from a single farm in Cockburnspath.
NFU Mutual, which insures three-quarters of Britain’s farmers, said rustling had risen by 170 per cent between 2010 and 2011 and by 3.6 per cent in 2012. The cost of stolen sheep to Scottish farmers in 2012 was put at £250,000. Across Britain, the number of sheep stolen in 2012 was estimated at 69,000.
The price of sheep can vary between £60 and £400, and the recent spate of thefts is believed to be driven by the relatively high value of lamb combined with the economic climate creating a black market.
Chief Inspector Andrew Clark said: “This is a national problem and it’s something we take very seriously and are investigating thoroughly. Early investigation has established the value of these thefts to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, which has a serious impact on the farming community.”
Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “We have serious concerns for the welfare of the sheep involved in these thefts.”