King warns that goat farmers could resort to vigilante justice
— to reduce praedial larceny
FALMOUTH, Trelawny - PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Goat Farmers' Association Kenneth King has warned that livestock farmers could take the law into their own hands if they continue to lose their animals to praedial thieves.
"People are getting very frustrated and it is reaching a point where they are going to be taking the law into their own hands," King cautioned from his Martha Brae home in Trelawny yesterday.
"People have reached a stage where after they have done what they are forced to do, they are willing to walk to the police station and give up themselves, because you cannot be raising your goats, expecting to use that as a source of income to feed your wife, your children, educate your children and when you come one night, everything is wiped out," said an obviously frustrated King.
"For this year, so far we have records of over 50 goats being stolen in Martha Brae and its environs, and this is not a fabricated figure. One lady in Martha Brae has lost over 15 — all stolen during the day. They went out to pasture; they just haven't returned. I have lost five, a neighbour lost two..."
Last month, North Trelawny Member of Parliament Patrick Atkinson, in his remarks at the official opening of the Hague Agricultural and Livestock Show, called for persons found guilty of purchasing stolen goods to be sent to prison.
"We must really focus not just on those who steal, but those who purchase those stolen goods from these thieves. And the penalty for receiving stolen farm goods should be so severe that whether they own supermarkets, butcher shops, or food processing plants, wherever they are, they should go to prison for a long time, mandatory," Atkinson, who is also the attorney general, stated then.
Alec Henderson, owner of Orange Valley Estates, told the Jamaica Observer West on Tuesday that since February there has been a spike in the theft of cattle from his farm.
According to him, over the past seven weeks, eight heads of cattle, with a market value of approximately $1million, have been rustled from the 2,800-acre property.
"Since the 10th of February we have had eight animals stolen, which are valued at approximately $1-million, from two areas of the farm," noted Henderson, whose family has been operating the farm since 1955.
He added that one of the grooms employed to the stables on the farm, which is famous for breeding top-quality race horses, had eight of his goats, "heavy with kids," stolen from his home one night, this year.
The groom, who lives in Davis Pen, near to Orange Valley, reportedly got a rude awakening one morning when he discovered the foetus of goats left behind by the thieves who made off with the carcasses of the eight animals they slaughtered.
The cruel act has led Henderson to theorise that the brazen thieves might have been strapped with firearms.
"To sit there and skin them (goats), that means they are not afraid, so if anybody come there they probably would kill them. They don't care if you bring your machete they are going shoot you. That is what it indicates. They are definitely bringing their machetes, and I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of them wouldn't have their firearm," reasoned Henderson.
King argued that the livestock farmers have every right to protect their investment from the robbers, adding that "the thieves seem to be toting guns."
"To protect your animals more you have to risk your life because the thieves that are coming are heavily armed. They are not coming lightly, so it is not good advice to tell a man to stay outside with his machete to ward off a thief. If you are not protected by heavy artillery, it does not make any sense you push your head out," he argued.
When contacted Commander of the Trelawny Police Division Superintendent Wilford Campbell said apart from the theft at Orange Valley, he is not aware of "any spate of animal theft" in the parish since this year.
"They have not been reported to us, but we will investigate what is happening," Superintendent Campbell told the Observer West.
The senior cop revealed, however, plans are afoot to meet with farmers in the parish to get "a full appreciation of the situation".
In the meantime, Henderson, who disclosed that last year three head of cattle were stolen from his farm, said the theft of six in less than two months this year is a major blow to efforts on his farm to rebound from the downturn the industry experienced in the 1990s.
"The easiest way to increase your herd is to increase your own heifers. However, it is a very slow process to increase your herds. And then when you are meeting this kind of obstacle with the theft, it makes it much more difficult," rued Henderson.
"Like a human, a cow takes nine months to have a calf," he added.