Constructive Meeting With Commissioner On Sheep EID And Laying Hens

15 November 2011
Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has today taken part in a cross-party cross-national delegation of MEPs in a meeting on sheep EID and the laying hens directive with the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli.
14 MEPs from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, England, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands raised concerns on the practicalities of the EID directive in their countries.

In a frank and wide-ranging discussion, the Commissioner spoke positively of the need for a full review of the legislation on sheep EID with a focus on ensuring that it is implemented proportionately and flexibly. Mr Dalli also emphasised his determination to implement the ban on battery cages without derogations, while ensuring enough flexibility so that 50m hens are not killed on the 1st of January.  He reported to the MEPs that some progress has been made on eggs, with an "entente" reached in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health to prevent illegal eggs from crossing borders, and only used for processed products.

Alyn said:
"I promised the sheep sector in Scotland and Scotland's rural communities that I would remain vigilant as this rolls forward, and indeed I am.

"Today was a useful and constructive meeting, and I can understand the Commissioner's dilemma on both sheep EID and laying hens. On the one hand, the law is the law and has to be implemented as such - any other approach is unfair to those producers who have made the effort to comply and risks undermining our goals on health and animal welfare. On the other hand, the reality of the practicalities of implementation must be faced, and certain provisions which look good on paper just don't work in practice: such as the technology for reading electronic tags, or the responsibility of killing 50m hens in illegal cages, which is simply unconscionable in a hungry world. By the same token, to allow this illegal product to undermine those producers who have invested in higher animal welfare would be the worst sort of moral hazard.

"I think we've a good chance of making progress. We had 14 MEPs, from different political groups and different countries, laying out the concerns we have regarding readability of technology, proportionate cross compliance penalties, sheep welfare concerns, the danger of tag loss and the need to postpone the date on which all old sheep should be tagged. This reinforced the message that the Parliament still has its concerns on EID and it should strengthen the Commissioner's hand for reform. He seems quite keen on a full review of the implementation of the legislation, which is a positive, and took on board my point about how the Commission can act as a platform for exchange of best practice in terms of what works and what doesn't across Europe, all the while stressing the need for a pragmatic approach.

"The next step is the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. It's there that these decisions are made, and we need to be persuading our governments to be pushing for a review through this forum. That's where I will be focusing my efforts. We'll also be keeping up the pressure within the Parliament through a oral question."