Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and Stormont Employment and Learning Committee Chairman has called on the Farming Minister to provide funding and support for farmers to set up ‘flock watches’ to protect sheep in the wake of the past rustling incidents.
Assemblyman Swann is also North Antrim UUP Chairman and Party Chief Whip as well as a Past President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster.
Mr Swann issued his call for the flock watch scheme as he appealed for increased vigilance among farmers as he did not want to hear of another major theft of sheep in the North Antrim area.
Mr Swann said: “During the time of this current Assembly, we heard the tragic news of the largest case of sheep stealing in Northern Ireland, followed by the equally heart-breaking news of a further theft of 143 sheep from the Knowehead Road area of Broughshane. Last winter, many North Antrim sheep farmers suffered massive losses in their flocks because of the extreme snow storms. The farming community does not need the additional financial burdens caused by sheep rustling.
“It’s quite clear that past thefts in the constituency were the work of an organised gang with an outlet for the sheep. I appeal to everyone in the rural area to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity, including cars acting suspiciously as undoubtedly someone scouted the location of sheep before the actual theft.
“People should also take note if sheep suddenly appear on farmland where they haven’t been seen before or if there is unusual activity at or near disused barns and sheds.
“I also appeal to the general public to contact police if they are offered lamb or mutton from unusual vendors as there is every likelihood these animals will be slaughtered for meat.
“I urge neighbourhood watch schemes and community groups in rural areas to be on the alert following past thefts and I want the entire constituency to rally round the farming community and the police to ensure these criminals face the justice of the courts.
“In the meantime, I call on the Farming Minister to set aside emergency DARD funding to help farmers set up flock watch schemes and stamp out sheep rustling before it becomes a new crime epidemic in Northern Ireland,” said Assemblyman Swann.