A sheep farmer from Feeny says whoever, or whatever, is behind hundreds of “horrific” attacks on his animals, causing losses of tens of thousands of pounds, must be stopped before “it wrecks my entire family”.
Gerald and Bridget McLaughlin farm 120 acres in the Sperrins. They claim since the early 1990s hundreds of ewes and new born lambs have had their tongues sliced off, and say it’s devastating.
“It’s wrecking our lives,” Mr McLaughlin told the ‘Journal’. “It’s devastating to watch the lambs and the ewes with the tongues cut out of them, not alone the financial loss. It’s wrecking my home. I come out to carry out a simple job of lambing and feeding the sheep, but to come on the lambs with their tongues cut out is shocking.”
Despite contact with the PSNI, the Ulster Farmers Union, the Department of Agriculture and the USPCA, MPs and dozens of MLAs, they still have no answers. They have also complained to the Police Ombudsman about what they claim is a lack of police action.
Mr McLaughlin said he is being targeted, but doesn’t know why. The latest incident happened on Good Friday when two of his lambs were attacked.
“It’s horrendous. I don’t even think a movie would even show it,” he said, “and police are telling me it’s birds. Well, it’s not birds. If it was birds why then is my neighbouring farmers - there are a thousand sheep around me - why is it not happening to them? Why would the birds be so selective to me?”
The couple said surveillance cameras were installed some years ago, but to no avail. Bridget said the situation is “utter madness; just horrific”. The couple have recorded and photographed all incidents. They have folders full of correspondence, among them a letter from the USPCA in 2008 confirming they were investigating the attacks.
The PSNI are aware of the matter, as are DARD who continue to monitor the issue and to liaise with police.
A DARD spokesperson said: “The Department is aware of allegations made by Mr and Mrs McLaughlin of animal cruelty at their farm in Feeny over a number of years.
“The flock has been inspected by the Department’s Veterinary Service and no animal welfare issues have been identified at the time of any inspection.
“Other bodies have also intensively investigated the allegations at various times including PSNI and USPCA, with full cooperation from DARD. The Department has provided advice in relation to protecting the flock from carrion birds and vermin and that further advice on flock management can be obtained from a local veterinary practitioner.”