By Andrew Hamilton
CATTLE rustling is becoming a major problem in Clare with more than five incidents taking place on the county’s farms over the past nine months.
Thieves are now understood to be entering farms at night, feeding animals under the cover of darkness in order to gain their trust, before attempting to steal them at a later date.
According to Superintendent Derek Smart, thieves are now able to gain access to cattle ear tags on the black-market, allowing them to reintroduce stolen animals into the food chain.
At present, all cattle must have a valid ear tag, which tracks the animal from birth to slaughter. The accurate tagging of cattle is important to ensure the tractability of meat – to ensure that meat from animals is labeled correctly.
This is important not just in terms of preventing stolen cattle from entering the food chain, but also from preventing horse and donkey meat from being labelled incorrectly as beef.
“In the last six or nine months we have had five incidents with cattle being stolen in Clare. We work very closely with the Department of Agriculture officials on this, conducted a search over the past two weeks and interviewed one individual with reference to cattle being taken in and we will be sending a file to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP),” said Superintendent Derek Smart at last nights meeting of the Joint Policing Committee of Clare County Council and Clare Gardaí. “People are getting tags from somewhere – that seems to be the case. These people are obviously building up the trust of the animals over a number of night. So they can come in the dead of night and take the cattle.”
East Clare Councillor Pat Hayes (FF), also confirmed that people have been entered farms at night – attempting to build up a relationship with animals before attempting a theft.
“There have been a number of incidents around our part of the country where people have tried and failed to rob cattle,” he said.
“There has been plenty of evidence that they [the cattle rustlers\ have been feeding the cattle in order to gain their trust which is incredible.”
Mayor of Clare, Joe Arkins (FG), said that there could be another horse meat scandal in Ireland if tags are allowed to be traded on the black market.
“I have had several hundreds of cattle since the new tagging system came in and there is no problem getting new tags. I think there is need for some sort of vetting system before a farmer can can get new tags,” he said.