New law could push many sheep farmers over the edge, local MEP warns
As of 1st January, South West sheep farmers will face substantial new costs in complying with a redundant new EU requirement to electronically tag their flocks, local Conservative MEP, Ashley Fox, has warned.
Newborn sheep will have to be electronically identified (EID), as a measure to prevent the spread of disease. However, the costs of these tags will be considerable for farmers - around £1.50 each – plus several hundred pounds for the reader. There is no evidence that the unreliable tags will improve animal health beyond that experienced with the current batch-based reporting system in the UK.
The UK has a third of the entire sheep population of the EU - 33 million animals - and 90,000 sheep producers, so we will be disproportionately affected.
Conservative MEPs have fought a long campaign to make the plans voluntary for sheep farmers, rather than compulsory. They launched a 'Written Declaration' in the European Parliament in 2008 calling for a delay until the technology has advanced to the point of making it far more affordable.
In December 2009, the parliament's petitions committee received an 8,000 signature petition calling for a halt to the plans. In response, the committee chair promised a review in the New Year.
Ashley Fox said:
"There are no clear animal health benefits offered by Electronic Tagging, and yet the costs of implementing these proposals could have sever consequences to many farmers.
"The impact of this legislation will be hardest felt in the UK as we have one third of the sheep in Europe. The loss of sheep farmers will affect all of us because flocks help maintain the South West’s green landscapes.
"This is another fine example of the EU trying to fix something that isn’t broken.
"If, as I fear, electronic tagging does have a detrimental impact on our sheep farmers, the commission will have to urgently reconsider it.”