Tagging sheep worth £2 just doesn’t add up

Conservative MEPs fight to save farmers from “astronomically expensive” burden

Strasbourg, 12th December 2007 — Electronically tagging sheep worth just £2 would place an “astronomically expensive” burden on UK sheep farmers.

Conservative MEPs have tabled amendments to a report on electronic identification of sheep and goats, calling for tagging to be voluntary rather than compulsory and a cost-benefit analysis to be conducted before the system is introduced.

The legislation was expected to come into force on 1 January 2008, but the European Commission has said wider stakeholder discussion is necessary before a final date for electronic identification can be set.

On Monday, the Agriculture Committee voted in favour of delaying the introduction until the end of 2009 and the European Parliament will have its say tomorrow (Thursday). But Conservative MEPs argue UK farmers would still struggle with the costs involved in two years time.

Sir Robert Atkins, MEP for the North West of England, said:

“It would be a real burden on UK sheep farmers if this legislation goes through now, even with the slight delay until 2010. We are simply not there yet with the technology needed to make this work.

“Cast ewes are worth only £2 in some parts of the UK, so how can farmers afford to tag them with microchips and purchase expensive readers? It is simply not feasible.

“The sheer number of sheep in the UK, combined with our specific topography, do not permit us to even contemplate such an astronomically costly system at this point in time.”

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