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Conservative MEPs warn of new sheep tagging law

Thursday, 14th January 2010

Conservative MEPs Roger Helmer and Emma McClarkin have warned that East Midlands sheep farmers will face substantial new costs in complying with a redundant new EU requirement to electronically tag their flocks, which has been in place from 1st January. They believe this new law is nonsensical for sheep farmers.

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 Ė 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.

Emma McClarkin MEP commented from Brussels:

"Electronic tags offer no clear benefits to animal health and the costs to farmers will push many out of business.

"EID adds considerable costs to farmers that cannot be passed on to consumers, further disadvantaging our hard pressed farmers.

"These laws will hit British farmers hardest as we have a third of the entire EU sheep population. The loss of sheep farmers will affect all of us because flocks help maintain our green landscapes.

"After Foot and Mouth there was a need for stricter movement records and controls in the sheep industry. The batch recording system currently in place, if operated correctly, is adequate and costs a fraction of the cost of electronic tagging.

"The current system isnít broken yet the EU is trying to fix it, with devastating costs to our farmers."

Roger Helmer MEP said:

"The European Commission has been unwilling to listen to our pleas to reconsider these costly tags. Now that they are going to become compulsory, I implore the EU to monitor their effects and their benefits closely.

"If, as we fear, electronic tagging does have a detrimental impact on our sheep farmers, the commission will have to urgently reconsider it.

"Sheep farmers should be getting our help at this difficult time, not yet more pointless hurdles from Brussels."