Pig rustling has returned, as hundreds of ‘Packington Pork’ pigs were stolen at around 3am last Friday from Packington Farm, near Tamworth in Staffordshire. Thieves are thought to have gained motivation for stealing over 500 recently weaned piglets from the latest Jamie Oliver programmes promoting the value of British pork, which has seen the price of a fully grown pig rise by over 50 percent. ‘Obviously this is extremely worrying,’ says Jamie Ward ‘but unfortunately very much a sign of the times.’

All of the stolen free-range piglets were less than five weeks old, and farmer Rob Mercer believes that they will be difficult to conceal. Jamie agrees, saying that ‘it makes you wonder where 500 pigs could be.’ The piglets, estimated to be worth over £25,000 are thought to be hidden on a farm somewhere. Police suspect that the rustlers walked half a mile, having broken down a fence and herded the animals into a truck, describing it as ‘a well-planned and executed crime.’ Neighbours reported seeing a van acting suspiciously and hearing an unusual commotion.

Mr Mercer has offered a £5,000 reward for the safe return of his piglets, describing the theft as ‘heartless,’ especially at a time when farmers are struggling.  Jamie, whose Shropshire pigs are free-range, just like the Packington Pork herd says that he is ‘redoubling security and making sure everything is as it should be…but being free-roaming obviously makes the pigs difficult to secure.’

For as long as people have been keeping pigs, rustling has been in existence, only recurring in small waves in recent times. A spate of pig pilfering crimes in East Lancashire in 1996 prompted the NFU to issue an official warning, advising that ‘farmers should not take unnecessary risks and leave the pigs out at night.’ A scarcity of pigs in Britain and indeed Europe at the time was thought to be the incentive for the crimes.  According to pork producer Jamie Ward, who lives in nearby Shropshire ‘so many pig farmers have gone out of business recently that there is once again a perceived shortage.’

If you have any information that you feel might be helpful, please call crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or for more information about British pork go to www.lovepork.co.uk or The British Pig Association at www.britishpigs.org

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