AN INTERNATIONAL investigation has been launched following the discovery of 80 boxes of cows’ feet at two beauty spots.

The boxes, which each contain around six to eight feet and lower leg joints, were found in two locations over the weekend in the Ribble Valley and Pendle.

Herber and Sandra Hargreaves were walking between Downham and Barley near the Pendle Hill End bridge when they stumbled across the first lot of dumped boxes in a stream.

After photographing the find and returning home, the pair contacted the authorities to inform them about the discovery.

An investigation is now under way and labels on the boxes indicate they were sent to the UK from Barcelona.

Mr Hargreaves said: “We could smell them before we could see them – it was like something you’ve never smelt before.

“At first we thought there must have been a carcass of a dead sheep nearby, but as we got closer to the bridge we saw the boxes.

“Upon further inspection we realised the boxes were full of cows’ feet, many of which had overspilled from the boxes and were floating in the water.”

Intrigued by the find, Mr Hargreaves went over to the boxes and was disturbed to find that many of the feet had been infected by maggots, which were also floating down the stream.

He said: “This is a watercourse and surely it has been infected by the meat that has been dumped.

“I don’t know who would do this, it’s just unacceptable.

“Children play in the stream and livestock drink from it.

“As well as getting this issue resolved and finding out who is responsible for the dumping, we want to make sure people who use the stream are aware of this so they can avoid the area.”

At another point over the weekend a further 40 boxes were found in an area of Pendle.

Both local councils are now involved with the investigation, as well as the Food Standards Agency and Environment Agency. A Ribble Valley Council spokesman said: “As soon as we were made aware of the fly-tip, we responded immediately.

“We are working with the landowner to get the meat removed and have informed the Environment Agency.

“This is a particularly appalling fly-tip and we are working with partner agencies to ensure the culprits are caught.”

Officials at the Food Standards Authority said they were looking to trace the origins of the product to trace the last known owner of the boxes.