Representing a partly rural constituency in Parliament means taking an interest in agriculture. Of course, we should all recognise the significance of what our farmers do. They do not just produce the food we eat but also maintain the countryside we all enjoy. As a society, fewer of us who do not live it understand rural life and the challenges it presents than was the case several decades ago and that is a disadvantage to all of us in understanding how difficult the work of agriculture can be and in ensuring the highest standards of practice, particularly in animal welfare, are maintained.
Last month, I had the opportunity to meet again with the National Farmers Union and some of their members in my constituency. One of their leading concerns is rural crime and it is a concern not limited to Warwickshire. Rural Crime, whether it be theft, arson or vandalism, cost the UK £49.9 million last year, 12% more than was the case the year before. Readers will recall the distressing reports of livestock slaughtered and carcasses stolen, leaving skins and organs behind on the fields, clearly the work of organised gangs.
Farmers, and their animals, deserve proper protection from these criminals. I therefore welcome the focus Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Philip Seccombe, has brought to rural crime and Warwickshire Police’s investment in a Rural Crime Policing Team. I will support in any way I can the effort to catch those responsible and deter others who may be planning to act in a similar way. It is in all our interests that farmers can get on with their jobs.