Rural communities have been told to report any suspicious activity following a spate of illegal butchery across the UK.
On February 28, police officers were called to an incident in near Daventry, Nottinghamshire where five sheep were found to have been killed and professionally butchered in their field.
In Lincolnshire, three lambs bought for a local primary school were discovered 'skinned and slaughtered' in a field opposite a farm on March 2.
And in the early hours of Wednesday, March 6, a farmer in Harpole, Northampton, discovered five pregnant ewes had been killed and partially butchered before the suspects were disturbed and fled.
Meat sold by criminals who slaughter sheep illegally often ends up on the black market, with no knowing of the processes gone behind making the product safe to consume.
To help protect livestock and catch those responsible, rural crime officersare urging people who live and work in rural locations to report anything suspicious they see.
PC Abbey Anstead, from Nottinghamshire Police said: “To find animals have been killed and butchered like this is not only very upsetting for farmers but also has financial repercussions.
“If you see something that strikes you as unusual, out of the ordinary or just a bit ‘off’ please let us know by calling 101 or making a report online.
“Please don’t worry that it’s a silly or trivial detail, as even a small piece of information may be a vital key that allows us to link other reports and bring those responsible for illegal activity to book.”
She added: “We also want farmers to be aware that this has been happening. If you suspect someone has attempted to target your animals, or find that you’ve lost livestock in this way, please report it to the police immediately.”