10th November 2011
I am calling on the European Commission to scale back its highly controversial plans regarding the electronic tagging of sheep. The new rules which came into force in 2010
were designed to help stop the spread of Tuberculosis and Foot-And-Mouth Diseases, but have proven to be a severe burden on sheep farmers across the South West.
Since 1st January 2010 all sheep need to be identified electronically tagged with the individual identity of each animal being recorded in a holding register and kept on the farm. However, this regulation requires 100% accuracy on all sheep movements, regardless of whether the sheep are kept in pens, fields, or allowed to roam the moors. If a sheep then goes missing, and can’t be traced, the farmer faces heavy financial penalties.
Consumers, quite rightly, want to know where their food comes from, but the system needs to be more understanding of farmers and farming. Sheep, in particularly those reared on the moors of the South West, often go missing. It could be something as simple as a tag being ripped off on barbed wire to an animal falling into a ravine; in either case, we are asking the farmer to take full responsibility for his entire flocks every move.
This is a simply impossible demand. Farmers shouldn’t be expected to baby sit their animals; they should be allowed to get on and produce the high quality food that we have come to expect. That is why I am calling on the Commission to reform the current Tagging system so that it is more tolerant of farmers’ needs and animal behaviour; the current technology simply isn’t ready to support this form of agricultural micromanagement.
I have produced a Written Declaration to the European Parliament on the Electronic Identification for Sheep. The Declaration asks the European Commission to look into introducing levels of tolerance to reflect the unreliability of current technology to read sheep movements.