Theft of livestock, vehicles and fuel from farmers is on the rise as a result of the cost of living crisis in the UK, according to a new report on rural crime.
National crime claim payouts were more than 40% higher between January and March than in 2021, insurer NFU Mutual says.
It warned that rising food prices could see cattle theft increase further and that contaminated meat could enter the food chain.
The NFU wants the government to set up a national task force to tackle rural crime.
David Exwood, the vice president of the NFU, said: “By taking a concerted approach and establishing an intergovernmental task force including Defra, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Justice, the National Police Chiefs Council and the Association or Police & Crime Commissioners – will be critical if we are to prevent further consequences of crime on farms, both financially and emotionally.”
The NFU Mutual report warns that an increase in rustling – with an estimated £2.4million worth of farm animals stolen in 2021 – could lead to animals being slaughtered and resold in unsanitary conditions, affecting food security, animal welfare and health. of people are threatened.
Meanwhile, it said its claims data from the first half of this year indicates fuel theft has more than doubled compared to the same period in 2021. The survey found that 49% of respondents believed fuel theft was now their biggest crime problem.
The total cost of rural crime in the UK was estimated at £40.5 million last year, an overall decline from previous years and the second annual decline during the pandemic.
Security measures, rural crime initiatives, quieter roads and community vigilance all played their part in suppressing rural crime, the report found.
But Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said farm theft this year “is rapidly gaining momentum as criminals make up for lost time from the past two pandemic years” and that it had an impact on farmers’ mental health. .
“Rural crime is causing a great deal of unrest and disruption, with many farmers and homeowners feeling vulnerable due to their isolation,” she added.
“The knowledge that determined thieves are scouring the countryside in search of targets, and returning to carry out nighttime raids, could lead to sleepless nights for people in remote areas.”