Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
In addition to hitting him hard in the pocket, farm thieves have also begun to affect the palate of William 'Bill' Shagoury.
"I refuse to eat curried goat now at the restaurants because I don't know if one of those goats were stolen," he told the recent launch of Farmers Watch in Windsor, Clarendon, the parish for which he is custos.
Shagoury, who presented his farmer's identification card to the audience, then went on to detail at least four incidents in which he had been the victim of farm thieves, with two cases particularly galling.
In the first instance, they stole 300 head of goats and sheep in one night, derailing his goal of becoming one of the island's largest investors in small ruminants. In the other incident over the Christmas season, the thieves made off with six goats the custos had bought with the intention of giving as gifts.
"I am a farmer who has felt the hand of thieves. I have suffered at the hands of these criminals," he shared with the group of farmers and their families.
This last incident proved too much for the veteran businessman, who has since lost his taste, literally, for a good curried goat meal away from home. In addition to avoid inadvertently supporting the thieves, he also had another reason - concerns about public-health risk from the meat of animals that had been improperly slaughter, dressed and transported.
"We need to have a slaughter house/abattoir in the parish ... maybe four or five to ensure that every goat, cow that is killed is done in one of these facilities under the right conditions. If this does not happen and a man is allowed to kill the goat anywhere he wants to kill it, how does the person buying the goat knows if is a stolen goat or if it is safe for eating?"
Insisting that laws relating to praedial larceny need to be strengthened as a matter of priority, the Clarendon custos issued a call for balancing the scales in favour of the hard-working farmers.
He told the launch: "The Government needs to make sure that when someone steals someone's farm produce or animals, they need to go and do hard labour and plant back some of those things that they have taken. The judges need to understand that when a person toils and sweats in the sun that their produce, when taken away from them, is a very precious commodity and that those who are guilty need to feel the full extent of the law."
Custos Shagoury then urged his audience to collaborate with police by sharing information and allowing the professionals to do the job of investigating the crimes and arresting the criminals.
"If you don't do that, we are going to end up poor and pauperised and you would have worked all your life and never achieved anything because someone keeps stealing everything that you plant. It cannot continue, we need to stop it. You need to work with the police. You need to look out for each other."