Cattle farmers call for stiffer rustling penalties
Cattle farmers of Cane Grove, Mahaica, are calling on authorities to introduce stiffer penalties for rustlers following a recent arrest.
According to one of the cattle farmers, Kurt Marshall, the Mahaica area in the last few years has been hard-hit.
Last Saturday was such an example. While the driver of a canter truck claimed he bought the animals from someone at Biaboo, Mahaicony, he is still to identify the persons.
Five of the animals, all identified as stolen, were on the truck. The driver, who was reportedly nabbed in the vicinity of Vigilance, East Coast Demerara, by a mobile police patrol, has since been released from custody.
According to Marshall, one of his cows was found on the truck. The other four have all been identified as stolen from the backdam in Cane Grove since Friday.
“That cow mind by my son. We milk it every day.”
Marshall is like many of the small farmers who buy one cow and wait nine and a half months before it ‘drops’.
“Then I bought another and another.”
With the rustlers finding a ready market for their haul, it is difficult for police and others to latch on to any of the animals once they would have been stolen.
According to Marshall, he was told that the driver claimed he was delivering the animals to a butcher in the Stabroek Market.
With some cows fetching more than $200,000 per head, it is a lucrative business for rustlers and some butchers who turn a blind eye as to where their beef is coming from.
Reports reaching this newspaper stated that in the case of Cane Grove, the owners of the branded animals had left them to graze in the backdam, behind that area, and upon checking their stock on Friday, discovered five head of cattle were missing.
A report was made to the Cane Grove Police Station and an all-station message was immediately sent out.
Since the rustlers suspected that the police would have been on the lookout for them, they decided to stash and wait for a day before moving the cattle.
However, the police maintained their vigilance and managed to intercept the truck when the thieves finally decided to make their move.
What gave them away was the fact that they decided to transport the animals after the stipulated time for trucks to be on the roadways, thus arousing the suspicions of the police.
During questioning, the driver of the truck claimed that he had bought the animals from someone in the Mahaica Creek.
But after checking, the police escorted the cows back to Cane Grove where the real owners were able to identify them by their brands.
Officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Home Affairs admitted yesterday that the matter has been one engaging their attention for awhile.
Questioned yesterday on what his ministry was doing about the issue, Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, admitted that rustling has been a serious problem for decades in Guyana, with persons even losing their lives as a result of this crime.
“The Minister of Home Affairs and the Guyana Police Force have been meeting with stakeholders to address the matter and this is commendable. However, farmers have expressed the need for more pro-activeness by the police and even tougher penalties when offenders come before the court.”
Persaud was also concerned that some of the expensive breeding animals, which are difficult to replace, are also stolen.
“Rustling left unchecked can affect the growth and competitiveness of the cattle industry. The ministry will continue to explore various approaches, including a computerized tracking system for animals.”
Already, Guyana was forced to suspend trading of live cattle with neighbouring Suriname, as this was being used as a means of rustling.
The minister warned that cattle owners also have a responsibility to be more diligent with their herds. The government has established a regulatory body, the Guyana Livestock Development Authority, which has since identified rustling as a priority area.