Northamptonshire Police said it had received at least five reports of animals being killed and butchered in the last 10 days.
Northamptonshire Police has promised farmers that incidents of illegal sheep butchery would be dealt with ‘as a matter of urgency’ after more than 150 farmers turned up to an impromptu meeting on the issue.
The meeting, hosted jointly by the NFU and Northamptonshire Police on Wednesday (July 17), was held as an open meeting for the police to outline details of Operation Stock, a signage scheme asking locals to pass on information of suspicious activity; actions taken to date; and a general exchange of ideas of preventing further crimes of a similar nature.
The force said it had received at least five reports of animals being killed and butchered in the last 10 days, including incidents in Crick, Whilton, Kelmarsh, Clipston and Rushton.
Neighbourhood Sergeant Sam Dobbs said: “I do want to reassure the farming community that we are taking these incidents very seriously and have a plan in our control room to ensure that any intelligence reported to us is dealt with immediately and suspicious incidents called in are deployed as a matter of urgency.”
NFU county advisor for Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland Harriet Ranson said the community had seen a ‘massive spike’ in the last six weeks with more than 100 sheep taken, and that the police were working on getting the forensics team out to every farm affected.
The incidents were happening in a fairly concentrated area in Northamptonshire, she added.
Ms Ranson said: “When more than 150 farmers turn out to a meeting with 48 hours’ notice, on a good day early harvest, it says to me what an impact this is having on the community. It is unprecedented.
“There are just not enough police to patrol such a wide area. We need more eyes and ears on the ground.”
Suggestions from the meeting included turning gate hinges upside down and padlocking gates; blocking off any entrances not used regularly with trailers or concrete blocks; and using wildlife cameras around gateways.
Alerting local cycling, walking or horse riding groups to the issue would also help expose suspicious activity, delegates were told.
Posted on twitter, an advice sheet from the meeting said: “Count your stock daily, carefully, and report any missing to the police.
“Be extra vigilant on clear, moonlit nights, weekends and bank holidays. And move any high value breeding animals as close to home as possible.”
Delegates were also urged to download the what3wordsapp which presents a unique three word sequence to identify a location within a 3m by 3m square.