The phrase fast-food takeaway is taking on a macabre new meaning on Dartmoor, where a livestock protection officer has found the remains of sheep that have been killed and relieved of their best meat joints with butcher-like precision.
Dartmoor livestock protection officer Karla McKechnie has told the Western Morning News in an exclusive interview that she believes the sheep-killers have targeted animals for their meat and done the butchering on the spot.
"We've found sheep where joints like the leg and shoulder have been carefully cut away – they're the sort of joints you'd have in a roast dinner," said Mrs McKechnie.
"I saw another killed which had all its legs removed," she added.
"I don't know where this is going – but there are people out there who will do this for the meat.
"We're also hearing about people in Plymouth waking up and finding sheep in their back garden.
"We think they've been taken home so that people can butcher them there – and then have lost heart and don't fancy doing it, or the sheep are getting away.
"Maybe it's because times are hard," said Mrs McKechnie. "It's very worrying – we will watch this space."
The main thrust of the livestock protection officer's work on Dartmoor is to prevent pet dogs from making a nuisance of themselves – and Mrs McKechnie has witnessed some horrific scenes during her first year in the job.
"There's a pretty serious problem with dogs on the moors," she says. "This year alone there were 41 recorded dog attacks – 20 of those logged with the police.
"Some of the time dog-owners say: 'It's only playing – it doesn't mean any harm,' after it's chased a sheep half a mile leaving its lamb behind. Dogs don't actually have to attack the animal – abortions are high in sheep. And even if it's only slightly got hold of a sheep, dog bites are nasty and the wounds will go sceptic."
Earlier this year Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society gave evidence to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee – and the organisation is pressing for the national park authority to take a much greater role in patrolling hot-spot areas, particularly near Plymouth, and prosecuting dog-owners whose pets are out of control