Ashley Fox hopes to mount pressure on Commission over electronic IDs for sheep - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Ashley Fox hopes to mount pressure on Commission over electronic IDs for sheep

Saturday, 18 February 2012
More than 140 MEPs have signed a written declaration calling on the European Commission to review its regulation on the electronic identification (EID) for sheep, but it remains more than 200 signatures short with just a month left before it lapses.

The Whiteface Dartmoor sheep - one of Britain’s most ancient of breeds (Photo: West MEP Ashley Fox is leading a campaign to gather support amongst MEPs to ensure that the sheep regulations are more tolerant of current working conditions, animal behaviour and the state of existing technology and co-authored Written Declaration (0051/2011).

This declaration calls on the Commission to revisit its set rules on electronic sheep identification to allow some level of tolerance to aid farmers already struggling to keep on top of inappropriate requirements. He and his co-authors want the regulations to reflect the unreliability of the technology currently available for reading sheep movements, and also call for derogation until 2016 for the recording of individual movements for entire sheep flocks.

The written declaration was lodged on 30th November 2011 and under parliamentary procedure will lapse on 15th March 2012 unless it achieves the signature of a majority of MEPs - at least 375.

Speaking in Strasbourg last week, Mr Fox said: "
The main success has been drawing attention to this issue. The Commission have already moved on the issue of flock movements; that was part of our campaign, that succeeded and we’re very grateful, but now what we need is some movement on the technology issue."

"This works fine if you have four sheep in a pen behind your house - not if you have four hundred roaming all over Dartmoor in the wind and the rain," he said.

Back in December, the Commission's Standing Committee on animal health approved a UK proposal to delay the requirement for the individual movement recording of the 'historic flock' for three years. Mr Fox was delighted with this development which means that farmers will not have to report the individual movements of sheep born before the 31st December 2009. This, he said, will allow farmers to delay the electronic tagging of the older sheep and save around £11m in the process.

"This is good news for the sheep sector, but more needs to be done. The EU's obsession with 100% tagging compliance is impractical for many South West farmers," he said in a statement on his website.

"I firmly believe that the remaining tagging proposals are too rigid, and are being pushed through in too tight a timeframe, taking little account of the kind of conditions that farmers work in. Tagging may work for small pens and fields, where the sheep are tightly controlled, but out on the moors in the rain and mud, it is impractical to say the least. At the present time if the farmer can't account for every sheep, or if a tag is lost, then he would be financially penalised."

Individual recording is mandatory in all Member States, irrespective of flock size, and was introduced by the EU following an agreement reached in 2003. The objective was to improve the identification and tracing of sheep by bringing in individual traceability across all EU member states after its deficiencies were highlighted dramatically during the 2001 outbreak of Foot-and-mouth disease.

Video from Quadrant on YouTube.


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