Farm Ireland
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Saturday 3 December 2016

Litany of brutal attacks on sheep baffles authorities

Over 500 animals have been maimed in attacks which began 20 years ago on Derry farm

Chris McCullough

Published 15/04/2015 | 02:30

Gerald McLaughlin's flock at his farm in Feeny, Dungiven, Co Derry
Gerald McLaughlin's flock at his farm in Feeny, Dungiven, Co Derry
A mutilated lamb on Gerald McLaughlin's farm

Gerald McLaughlin is at his wits end regarding the cause of serious attacks on his sheep flock.

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Almost two decades after the first incident, the 58-year-old year - who farms in the Sperrin Mountains near Feeny, Dungiven, Co Derry with his wife and sons - wakes every morning in dread of what he may find in the fields.

On Good Friday, two lambs had their tongues cut off and Mr McLaughlin had no alternative but to put them down.

Even though these barbaric acts have been ongoing for years no culprit has ever been caught.

In total, over 500 animals have been attacked in what Mr McLaughlin described as "evil, cruel and barbaric acts."

He said: "In the past three weeks there has been another 15 incidents including two on Good Friday.

"Our farm buildings are a short distance up the road from our dwelling house.

"When we went home on Friday for some coffee, someone or something entered the shed where the sheep are housed and cut the tongues from two young lambs.

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"It is crazy to think who or what is carrying out this act of cruelty. Every time we visit the sheep we wonder how many more have fell victim to this mysterious perpetrator.

"We have tried many times to catch whoever or whatever is cutting the tongues off, but we have never found anything.

"I even employed an outside security firm to come in and look after the place overnight. They found nothing and it cost me a fortune."

Mr McLaughlin has repeatedly informed the authorities including the North's Department of Agriculture, Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, local vets and the PSNI.

These authorities have carried out their own investigations but have failed to shed any light on what is going on.

Both the PSNI and DARD said they were aware of the situation and were continuing to monitor the incidents.

Grey crows

The PSNI stated that they and a number of other specialist agencies had carried out full and thorough investigations and have found no evidence of any offences having been committed.

Local farmers have been left bewildered by attacks on Mr McLaughlin's flock, but one suckler farmer in the area believes that grey crows are responsible.

He said about a month ago he had a cow calving on its own on a hill close to Mr McLaughlin's land. Before the farmer had time to reach the new-born he saw grey crows attacking the calf. When he got to the calf he discovered the animal's tongue was missing.

The farmer believes the crows are targeting new born animals on that particular hill in the area.

Mr McLaughlin, however, said that he is sure that theory isn't right.

"If it was birds, why only my farm?" he asked.

"There is a farmer on one side with 300 sheep and another on the other with a couple of hundred ewes with only a wire fence between us and it isn't happening to them," he added.

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