Livestock rustling down to £2m a year

Livestock rustling across the UK fell for the second year running in 2021 – but thefts of livestock still cost the industry more than £2.1 million during the year.

Figures released by rural insurers, NFU Mutual showed that there had been a 5.5 per cent fall in rustling in 2021, while 2020, the first year of the pandemic, had seen the cost of livestock theft fall by 25.5 per cent, reversing a trend of increases over the previous decade.

But while rural thefts had fallen during the pandemic, the insurers said they were concerned criminals becoming more active again and, combined with increases in prices including meat, this could lead to a resurgence of livestock theft.

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Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist with the Mutual welcomed the second annual reduction.

“Until recently it was difficult to bring about prosecutions because of the difficulties detecting stolen animals and the likelihood that stolen sheep were usually sold for meat. Now we are seeing hi-tech security and marking systems, along with DNA testing, each making it more difficult for criminals to escape justice.”

But she added: “Livestock rustling remains one of the costliest crimes after machinery theft. It’s a crime which attacks the roots of farming life and causes huge anxiety for farmers. It also causes suffering to stolen animals which are transported and slaughtered without concern for their welfare.”

And she added, while rustling had represented a small number of animals in the past, organised criminals were now targeting many animals at a time.

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