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Van full of 'stolen' turkeys culled due to food health fears

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Officers couldn't trace the owners of the turkeys

Officers couldn't trace the owners of the turkeys

Officers couldn't trace the owners of the turkeys

Christmas came early for 53 turkeys who fell victim to alleged thieves in north Antrim.

The birds had to be culled - two months before Christmas - after police discovered them in the back of a van in Dunloy.

Because of the strict rules on traceability, the turkeys - believed to have been destined for festive plates - didn't even make it into the food chain.

They were found after police stopped a white van at Station Road. However, officers were unable to reunite the turkeys with their owners despite an appeal on Facebook.

Instead, the PSNI was forced to send the birds to the slaughterhouse.

Police said the 53 still-growing turkeys were thought to have been stolen from a local farm in the early hours of October 21. Investigating officers arrested three men aged 21, 25 and 33 from the north Antrim area on suspicion of theft.

The men were released on police bail until December 2 as investigations continue.

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A PSNI spokeswoman told the Belfast Telegraph: "The birds were found in the back of a white van and we were worried they would die. Police contacted poultry farmers in the area but nobody could say for sure they belonged to them.

"And, in any event, it was established poultry farmers would be reluctant to let turkeys back into their flock in case of disease, and there were also paperwork/traceability issues.

"We informed the Department of Agriculture and they gave us some contacts for turkey factories. We had to send the turkeys to be culled by a poultry processor.

"They didn't go into the food chain because of traceability issues. Unfortunately, there was no happy ending."

Turkey farming is big business in north Antrim with some farmers raising thousands of birds.

Glarryford chicken farmer Sam Hanna - a DUP councillor in Ballymena - has urged farmers to be on their guard.

He said: "Farmers should have cameras up, fit a security light and lock the shed doors and you can also have a laser in your farm yard which sets off an alarm at your bedside if something breaks the beam."

Superintendent Brian Kee, head of the PSNI Rural Crime Unit, said: "Thefts of farm machinery and livestock not only hamper a farmer's ability to do his job, but can cause significant upset, inconvenience and loss of income.

"Information from the community is also vital in helping us address rural crime.

"We would also ask anyone who is interested in learning more about protecting their property and their community or about Farm Watch, trailer marking or our text alert system to phone their local crime prevention officer or neighbourhood policing team on 101."

Christmas fare

1. Turkey was a luxury until the 1950s, when it became more accessible and affordable.

2. The average weight of a Christmas turkey is 5.5kg/12lb.

3. Around 10 million turkeys are eaten in the UK at Christmas.

4. Israel is the world's biggest consumer of turkey at 13kg per capita (UK 4.8kg).

5. Turkeys are believed to have been brought to Britain in 1526 by William Strickland.


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