Unions protest over EID

Farming unions from the UK and the Republic of Ireland turned out in force in Brussels this week to protest against compulsory electronic tagging for sheep.

Representatives from the farming unions of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are in agreement that plans for all sheep in Europe to be electronically tagged by 2010 are unworkable.

The industry delegation raised its concerns during a meeting of the European Parliament's agriculture committee, which was discussing the proposals.

NFU livestock board chair Alistair Mackintosh said: "At the moment regulation and technology are driving the industry not the market. It will cost in the region of 12 Euros per head to implement this scheme.

"We've got 33.1 million sheep which makes it a huge amount of money that the industry cannot afford. The whole European sheep industry is in decline so to force this extra cost on it at this time is just ridiculous."

National Farmers' Union of Wales vice president Ed Bailey added that farmers were "fearful" of the imposition of compulsory sheep EID because "it will add significant cost and regulatory burden to a sector that can ill afford it."

Nigel Miller, National Farmers' Union of Scotland vice president, said: "As a Union, we are already looking for solutions to curb the rate at which sheep are leaving Scotland's hills and uplands.

"Europe's lawmakers and politicians must now play their part. They need to have a change of heart on this legislation and make it a voluntary option for member states. If they fail to do this, then they run the risk of accelerating the decline in Scotland's sheep flock."

Mackintosh said the industry's concerns had received a sympathetic hearing and support from the UK MEPs in the committee.