Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
The UK’s first national livestock theft police officer has launched a new initiative to get on top of the crime. Funding provided by UK... Policeman takes up fight against livestock theft

The UK’s first national livestock theft police officer has launched a new initiative to get on top of the crime.

Funding provided by UK rural insurer NFU Mutual has enabled the National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU) to recruit Martin Beck, who has 30 years of policing experience in the field, as its first UK-wide livestock theft prevention officer.

Mr Beck’s role involves gathering livestock theft-related intelligence though a new initiative code named Operation Foldyard. It will share that information on and work with local police to help secure convictions.

The appointment comes as the toll from livestock theft reached an estimated £2.7 million in 2022, according to the latest figures from NFU Mutual – an 8.7% increase from the previous year.


Mr Beck said: “I will be working to ensure information is shared between the police forces and their key partners. As the intelligence picture grows, I expect to see individuals involved in livestock theft targeted and disrupted.

“For many police officers, livestock theft is outside their crime-fighting experience. Mr Beck will work with police forces to help them understand the crime and how to investigate it so more prosecutions can be brought.”

While livestock theft is distressing to farmers and the animals involved, it is also a cause of food crime – and can present a risk to public health as the quality and safety of stolen meat products cannot be guaranteed.

Horrific suffering

“Livestock theft needs to be exposed for the harm it is causing, and the people involved are criminals,” said Mr Beck. “We are regularly seeing both small and large numbers of thefts across the country.”

Matthew Screech, NFU Mutual’s lead on livestock claims, said: “Livestock theft causes horrific suffering to animals which are often treated badly by thieves and sometimes even slaughtered out in the fields.

“Martin’s experience as a rural police officer in Devon and Cornwall makes him ideally qualified to take up the role of the UK’s first national livestock theft prevention officer and we are delighted to be providing funding for his new role.”

Organised crime

“Livestock theft is no longer about single animals being stolen – it’s now a highly organised crime often involving 50 or more sheep being taken in one raid. It can have a devastating effect on farming businesses.

“As the main insurer of the UK’s farmers, we support a range of initiatives set up to tackle the growing menace of rural crime because we know it’s an issue which deeply concerns farmers and country people.”

Livestock theft measures

• Ensure livestock are clearly marked

• If possible, graze away from roads

• Check livestock regularly if you can

• Consider high-tech marking system

• Join a Farm or Rural Watch scheme

• Ask neighbours to report sightings

• Call police – don’t tackle criminals

Information about livestock theft can be reported confidentially via or by calling 0800 555 111