Defra loses laptops, cameras and cows

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has admitted that it has 'lost' nearly 21,000 head of cattle.

Former Defra minister Jonathan Shaw was forced to admit the fact that 10% of the cattle in its system are unaccounted for in response to a Parliamentary question by shadow farming minister Bill Wiggin.

Asked for an estimate of the number of records relating to cows born in the UK before 1996 that have been lost, Shaw said: "There are 207,461 animals registered on the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) born before 1996.

"Of these 20,979 are reported lost or, at present, not traced for reasons such as alleged theft. In addition to these there are 1,039 animals whose final destination is presently unreported."

The Conservatives have pounced upon the admission, saying that the cattle are only the latest in a long line of items 'lost' by Defra. An earlier written question from Wiggin revealed that the department has also lost in excess of £160,000 worth of equipment, including cameras, laptops and mobile phones.

Peter Ainsworth, shadow environment secretary, said: "Laptops, data and now cows - is there anything this government cannot misplace? Defra's performance would do credit to Little Bo Peep."