We must take a leaf out of brave Olympian's book to beat farm thefts

America's Michael Phelps. Photo: Martin Meissner/AP Photo
America's Michael Phelps. Photo: Martin Meissner/AP Photo
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

Faster, Higher, Stronger is the familiar Olympic motto. It was proposed in 1894 by father of the modern Olympics, Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, who added, "these three words represent a programme of moral beauty."

While Rio is providing plenty of entertainment and new performance records, much of what we're witnessing on the moral front is far from beautiful.

Yet, in the midst the mire, things happen that give hope, and not just for the world's biggest sporting competition. One such thing is the stand taken on doping by American swimming sensation Lilly King.

Not so much for calling out her Russian opponent Yulia Efimova because that could just be stoking old Cold War flames, but rather because she said any athlete who has been punished for doping in the past should be barred from Olympic competition, including her own teammates.

Every generation often questions the backbone of their successors but this is one occasion when a young person is leading the way and I am buoyed to see it.

The teenager has bravely - some might say naively - stuck her head above the parapet. Thankfully, she has been joined by other competitors including the most decorated Olympian in history, Michael Phelps. Hopefully, this is a growing wave that becomes an overpowering tsunami.

Maybe the best way to tackle drugs in sport is to make the taking of them uncool. Lilly Smith may have done more to fight drug taking in sport than years of official entreaties.

So what has this to do with today's society and the lives far removed from the Olympics that most of us live?

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One of the biggest scourges of farm life today is theft. If you haven't experienced it, your neighbour, friend or relation probably has. Chainsaws, hedge trimmers, power tools, socket sets, etc are walking out farm gates across the country every night. Yet, every day, you can walk through a market or mart and will likely find a stall selling the very same kind of stuff.

So why do people buy stolen goods and can this market be stopped?

Some may say they didn't know an item was stolen but, deep down, we all know that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Or is it because the chance of getting caught is slight? Looking through court reports, convictions in relation to the handling or possession of stolen goods are uncommon; and many are overturned on appeal.

There needs to be stronger enforcement of the law, tougher sentencing, improved garda resources and for markets etc, as well as classified websites to adopt a strict approach to vendor authenticity.

But perhaps the most critical element is what farmers themselves do.

Over 200 years ago, Patrick Colquhoun, the Scot who founded the first regular police force in England said, "deprive a thief of a safe and ready market for his goods, and he is undone".

Farmers need to stand up for what they know to be right, so not buying this stuff but also in challenging those they know who are. This is a very hard thing to do but peer pressure can have a greater influence on behaviour than any threat of official sanction.

Maybe people feel one power-washer or drill won't make a difference to the overall problem. But that is exactly what it will do. This war can be won chainsaw by chainsaw.

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