Scots And Welsh Joint Front on EU Plans on Individual Sheep ID

05 February 2009
Members of the European Parliament Jill Evans from Plaid Cymru and Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Mr Alyn Smith have today (Thursday) hailed another milestone in the ongoing effort against EU plans to force the individual identification of sheep.

Both have signed a declaration (reproduced below) and urged other MEPs from other countries and parties to sign up to the campaign. The groundswell of support for the campaign is building as the deadline for implementing individual identification looms at the end of this year. Both MEPs have stressed the importance of the actual issue: the requirement to implement individual traceability; rather than the focus of the debate to date on the technology itself.

Smith and Evans have already asked UK Secretary of State Hillary Benn for a meeting in London to seek his support in bringing this issue back into the EU Council of Ministers.

Smith said:

"Scotland's farmers and crofters are united as one, individual traceability is unnecessary, unwarranted, and will most likely turn the trickle of destocking into a flood. It would be unconscionable for me to allow this to pass without using every opportunity to fight it, and I remain of the view that there is movement in this issue.

"At a time when food sovereignty is higher up the political agenda than ever before it is just flat illogical that member state governments have agreed to introduce compulsory individual identification, but they have, and the deadline is getting closer by the day. We must see this brought back into the Council of Ministers and the decision reversed.

"This declaration makes the elegantly simple but fundamental change to the Regulation, from compulsory to voluntary. This would at a stroke allow the EID technology to develop, would avoid inflicting unnecessary burdens on the industry and head this issue off at the pass. We will keep fighting this one but we have a way to go yet."

Ms Evans said:

"I have been working closely with the farming organisations in Wales on this, and will continue to do so. We successfully campaigned for a ban on Brazilian Beef imports and this is one we need to win as well. Given the size of our national flocks, Wales and Scotland have a huge interest in this issue. We must persuade the UK government to press the Commission to rethink their plans to implement individual identification.

"This declaration is another step in that campaign and I urge colleagues across the chamber to support it."

The Declaration is below:

MEPs and European sheep and goat breeders call on the Commission and the Council of Agriculture Ministers to review the introduction of compulsory individual movement recording and electronic sheep identification system, as planned for 31.12.2009, because of implementation difficulties, high costs and unproven benefits.

EU Council regulation 21/2004 requires individual identification and recording of sheep and goat movements across Europe from 1st January 2010. To achieve this member states will be required to implement Electronic identification of their sheep flock.

Existing regulations on sheep and goat identification have proved to be perfectly adequate to ensure traceability and to control disease. Electronic Identification and individual movement recording far exceed what is genuinely needed.

European sheep breeding organisations therefore recommend that the Electronic Identification and individual recording movement of sheep and goats to be introduced on a voluntary basis only. With the compulsory obligation delayed until there is sufficient evidence that the system will not place an overbearing cost on producers.

Justification:

* The current ID and batch recording system, combined with EU and domestic movement standstills are simple, efficient and cost effective measures which help the control of animal disease. Evidence shows that compulsory EID and individual recording would not deliver significant improvement in animal disease control but would incur a massively disproportionate regulatory and financial cost.

* EID has significant practical problems that prevent the effective operation of EID in extensive livestock systems and within climatic conditions commonly experienced in northern Europe. There are also issues surrounding compatibility and the general IT literacy levels within the industry.

* The additional requirements associated with the regulation such as maintaining individual identities in a flock register are onerous and undeliverable in extensive systems due to tag loss, incomplete gathering, etc, and offer no benefit in disease control terms.