New round in sheep EID battle

Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has today submitted amendments to the new Animal Health Law designed to alleviate practical difficulties for farmers in the implementation of requirements to electronically tag sheep.

The amendments, crafted in cooperation with crofter organisations, will relieve sheep farmers of the need to double tag sheep with both an electronic tag and an individual identification number, until the sheep leaves the farm of birth.  Instead, sheep farmers can identify their sheep with a single, non-electronic tag, with identification for the holding of birth rather than an individual identification number.  These are the rules currently in place for sheep slaughtered before the age of 12 months and not intended for intra-EU trade.  Once the animal leaves the farm of birth, normal rules on tagging will apply.

Industry organisations have called for this derogation for some time, due to the significant impact it will have on read rates (Scot EID estimate that read rates decrease by 3% every 600 days), animal welfare (through less ear damage for sheep), and reduced costs for farmers, while not compromising the essential elements of traceability and disease control.  Limited inspection resources can also be, as a result, focused on the key risks points in disease control i.e. the movements of the animals.  The amendments will also help relieve the burden of cross compliance penalties.

Alyn said:

"This has been a long-running saga, and we've not had much luck in convincing the Commission to introduce this critical derogation through administrative means, so I'm determined to take the opportunity that the Animal Health Law provides to reintroduce this proposal on the field of legislation.

"We are still of the opinion that this law, through individual animal numbers and double electronic tagging, is simply disproportionate to the purpose of disease prevention and control.  Therefore, restricting the strictest requirements to the point of greatest risk, the movements of the animals, and relieving burdens while sheep are still on the farm of birth makes sense.

"I call on my colleagues in the Agriculture Committee to pass this amendment so we can negotiate this with Council and Commission."

Hilary Liebeschuetz, Animal Health Schemes Officer, Shetland Island Council, said:

"The sheep EID regulations are causing ongoing problems for Scotland's sheep producers and welfare issues for their sheep.  I hope that if this amendment were to be supported, it will go some way to lessen this burden and increase optimism amongst sheep producers."

The amendments are to the Paulsen Report on the Commission's newly proposed Animal Health Law, which is framework legislation designed to consolidate the 40 or so different laws on the prevention and control of animal diseases, including Regulation 21/2004 on sheep EID.  The amendments will be considered by the Agriculture Committee and voted on in February.

Text of Amendment:

By way of derogation from Article 107 (a), Member States may exempt operators from the requirements to identify kept animals of the ovine and caprine species as laid out in Article 4 (2) in Regulation (EC) No 21/2004, replacing this with a requirement to identify those kept animals in accordance with Section A.7 of the Annex of Regulation (EC) No 21/2004, until the animal leaves the holding of birth. When the animal leaves the holding of birth, it shall be identified in accordance with Article 4(2) of Regulation (EC) No 21/2004.