Packed AGRI Agenda In Brussels

12 April 2011
SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has quizzed the European Commissioner for Animal Health, John Dalli, on bovine EID, the prospects for a trade ban on caged hens, the TSE Roadmap and fallen stock at a packed hearing in Brussels.
The Commissioner reassured Smith, and the rest of the Committee, that "those farmers who have invested in the welfare of their hens must not be placed at a disadvantage by the inaction of others" but also admitted that 8 out of 27 member states have thus far refused to provide data to the Commission on whether they will comply with the 31 December deadline.

The Commissioner was before the Committee to provide one of his regular updates, and reassured MEPs that the vexed question of sheep EID remains on his agenda, and that subsequent to inspection visits to Scotland, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, the Commission will produce an assessment later this year taking stock of how the implementation is progressing.

The Commissioner also updated the Committee on the stocktaking exercise underway on animal transport rules. A stock-take report will be published later this year but, as he said himself, the emphasis will be on stocktaking and better enforcement of current rules, not new laws.
After the meeting, Smith said:
"This was a useful meeting from the Commissioner, and covered pretty well every subject in his portfolio. Of chief relevance to Scotland will be the reassurance that EID remains on his agenda, and the enforcement of this technology will take account of the imperfections and the learning process we are all undertaking to make the tags work.

"Similarly, he agreed with my point on the caged hen ban that the credibility of the Commission, and indeed the Parliament, is at stake. Member states have had 12 years to implement the ban on battery hens and Scottish farmers have invested to meet the higher welfare standards we all want to see. To see them undercut because other countries have not invested would be unconscionable, and we need to stick to our guns. All the same, it is concerning to hear that 8 of the 27 member states are dragging their feet as much as they evidently are.

"While he was less forthcoming about bovine EID and the TSE Roadmap, we're aware progress is being made, though bovine EID is, I suspect, a while away yet. I have consistently made the point that if the Commission had started with bovine EID and then rolled it out to sheep it would have made an awful lot more sense given there is a higher economic value to bovine EID but, of course, we are where we are."