“It feels like our children were taken” says victim of rustlers’ crime spree.

While criminals exist in every country, it really is remarkable how very little street crime there is in Japan. Unfortunately, one part of the country has been seeing a rash of farm crime this summer.

Police in Gunma, two prefectures north of Tokyo, say that since the start of July roughly 670 pigs have been stolen within the prefecture. The porcine pilfering were committed in a total of seven robberies so far in the towns of Maebashi and Isesaki, taking place at night after the farms had shut down for the day. The vast majority of the animals stolen/hognapped were piglets which were taken from their rearing enclosures.

Pigs aren’t the only livestock getting snatched in either. Farms in two other Gunma towns, Orama and Tatebayashi, have each had a calf stolen this summer. In addition, a farm in Ashikaga, which neighbors Tatebayashi across the prefectural border in Tochigi, has been hit twice by cattle thieves. After the first incident, which took place in June when thieves made off with two calves, the farm’s owners installed security cameras, which recorded footage of a second theft last Saturday night. The footage shows a truck pulling up to the farm’s barn at around 10:40 p.m. and three men in shorts and T-shirts exiting the vehicle. While one stands watch, the other two go into the barn and come out carrying a calf, with one man holding the animal’s front legs and the other its back ones. After putting the calf in the back of the truck, they repeat the process two more times, before driving off roughly 10 minutes after they arrived.

“I’m so angry about this,” said Kazuhiro Tsuruta, the farm’s owner. “It’s like ‘They got us again!’ The calves were just three months old, and we were giving them their milk by hand, so the staff feels like our children were taken,”

In addition, two other farms in Ashikaga have had one calf each stolen this month, with the total value of the seven cows being approximately 2.75 million yen (US$25,950).

Because of the proximity of the crimes, both in terms of time and geography, the police believe they may be the work of the same group. As for what someone would do with several hundred stolen pigs and a half-dozen or so calves, the obvious answer would be to sell them for their meat. Japanese consumers don’t buy whole or live animals at the market, though, which would imply that either the thieves have access to butcher facilities of their own or are trying to resell them to other meat processing plants, perhaps while posing as the animals’ legitimate owners.

With the rustlers still at large, the Gunma Prefectural Pig Farming Association has sent out warnings encouraging to local farmers. After all, if even the ninja museum can be infiltrated by thieves, rural barns’ security systems could probably do with a few improvements.

Source: NHK News Web (1, 2)
Top image: Wikipedia/京浜にけ
Insert images: Pakutaso
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