Sheep-tagging plan is criticised

Salisbury Journal: Sheep-tagging plan is criticised Sheep-tagging plan is criticised

THE National Sheep Association (NSA) has condemnded Defra’s decision to outlaw manual tags in all sheep under 12 months of age, including those going direct to slaughter, from 2015.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “I am bitterly disappointed Defra has ignored the sheep industry’s views and forged ahead with its decision to implement full EID in England.”

The NSA and the NFU had called for lambs going directly to slaughter to be exempt from the EID requirement.

Mr Stocker said they pose no traceability or disease risk.

He said: “Given the wording of the consultation and comments made by Owen Paterson and Defra officeholders during the consultation period, it appears that Defra had already made its mind up and was wasting our time and resources by asking us to present our views.

“It was clearly a ‘done deal’ and a decision that was made without any risk assessment of what the industry can afford.

“The NSA feels very strongly that, even if Defra wanted to remove the option of the non-EID slaughter tag, there is no justification for including lambs when their first and only move is straight to an abattoir, with no other collections, mixing or unloading.

“The disease risk is so low for these moves that EID tagging cannot be justified and is simply adding bureaucracy and costs.

“NSA’s consultation response made it very clear that if the sector was going to take any additional burden with these rule changes, Defra must provide benefits.”

Mr Stocker called on Defra to give something back to the sheep sector by speeding up work on the recommendations made in the Macdonald report to reduce red tape, reopen discussions on cross-compliance tolerance in Brussels and do away with the sixday standstill, as was done in Northern Ireland this year.

He also called on Defra to introduce an equivalent level of mandatory recording and reporting further up the supply chain, saying: “The NSA is frustrated by the different approaches being deployed in England and Wales and urged the Welsh Government to decide whether it is going to implement the same changes as England or not.

“We are in a ridiculous situation, whereby there will be significant changes in England in 2014 with the introduction of the electronic database, more upheaval in 2015 with the removal of visual tags and presumably more changes again further down the line when Wales catches up.”

NFU livestock chairman Charles Sercombe said: “The vast majority of our sheep farmers will just view this as a further burden on the industry.

“This decision could cost primary producers £1.8m and comes at a time when livestock businesses have seen incomes drop by nearly 50 per cent during the past year.

“We have been clear with Defra that the last thing livestock producers now need is to see a rise in tag costs.

“Unfortunately the calls from farming organisations appear to have fallen on deaf ears and I have invited agricultural minister George Eustice to visit my farm to discuss the issue in more depth.”

A Defra spokesman said: “Electronic tagging will uphold Britain’s high standards of livestock traceability and improve our ability to manage animal disease outbreaks.

“It will also allow us to gather evidence to argue against EU fines for minor record keeping errors.”

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