New sheep rules will be a 'nightmare' for farmers

Dec 19 2002

By Anna Lognonne, The Journal


Farmers yesterday reacted with unrestrained horror to new European Commission proposals on sheep identification, saying they were completely unworkable.

NFU Deputy President Tim Bennett said the Brussels bureaucrats had demonstrated their ignorance of the sheep industry with plans to demand that all sheep in Europe carry not one, but two 14-digit ear tags.

"Not only are sheep ear tags prone to falling out, the 14-digit number will be a record-keeping nightmare," he said.

"To add insult to injury, farmers will be liable for prosecution if the tags fall out.

"There is no way in the world that these ridiculous EC proposals will work in the UK, where large flocks are often run in remote and harsh areas. It is almost guaranteed that sheep will lose tags."

The record-keeping nightmare arising from the identification proposals would see the 14-digit number entered on every movement form and checked every time the animal goes through a sale yard.

Mr Bennett said the Commission's proposals were even more disappointing because the NFU hosted a visit of a delegation of Commission officials earlier this year to look at the issue of sheep ID.

"Because of our concerns about the draft proposals we had hoped that they had taken on board our serious concerns about the issue.

"As well as being unworkable, I believe that this proposal fails to address the issues that the Commission wanted it to address.

"In fact, the proposal is so bureaucratic and impractical that it will be a backward step in respect of the identification and traceability of sheep.

"The NFU supports the principle of good identification and traceability and we believe that the measures in place in the UK can provide the degree of assurance that the Commission needs."

The NFU believes controls need to be appropriate to the risks, practical in their application and above all based on common sense. "This proposal is wrong. It is proposing bad legislation."