Turkey thieves strike before Christmas as farmers arrive at work to find pens empty

Helena Horton
The turkeys are feared to be dead

Turkey thieves have struck in Devon as farmers fear the birds were brutally killed before being dragged off to be sold on the black market.

Jon Smye, of Broadclyst Community Farm, has warned other farmers to "remain vigilant" as the thieves are still at large.

He has also asked locals to report it to the police if they are offered turkeys or feathers by suspicious characters.

The farmer fears that the turkeys were killed in an inhumane manner as thieves rushed to take them off the property in the dead of night.

Mr Smye said that as the birds are so heavy, there is no way they could have been taken alive.

He added: "Unfortunately we’ve had all of our turkeys stolen over night. We are gutted as a lot of care goes into looking after the birds. It’s that time of year when turkeys are killed but there are laws in place to ensure welfare at the time of killing.

"These weren’t observed and the turkey pens door was smashed off its hinges.  We are reporting this to the police and we know this happened around 4am.

"The thieves took the birds across the field to the lay-by near the leisure centre car park. We are checking CCTV. If you heard or saw anything please let us know. You may be offered turkey or you might notice someone getting rid of a lot of feathers. Any small detail might add up to something so please share. And if you have livestock please be vigilant."

After the farmer posted about the theft on Facebook, vegans posted that they endorsed the theft.

One wrote: "Poor turkeys. I hope they’ve been rescued from their impending death and are living out their time in a sanctuary."

Another said: "Wow, I truly hope all the turkeys are ok and that this was an act of compassion carried out by people who wanted to save them. I'd hate to think they were stolen to be slaughtered for profit by people just like yourselves".

And another posted: "Maybe next time you won’t breed animals for the table. "

The turkeys - worth about £500 - had been raised at the farm since May.

Last year, vegans protested at organic turkey farms across the country because there was easy access to the birds, which are available to be viewed by the public.

Paul Kelly, who owns the Kelly Bronze turkeys, reared by small farmers across the country and a favourite of Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith, said the farms had been targeted.

Many farmers complained that the turkeys had been "scared" by vegans "shouting through loudspeakers".