Neil Parish MEP, who chairs the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, is encouraged that EU agriculture ministers meeting today will consider a Hungarian proposal to scrap the electronic tagging of sheep.
At the end of 2007 it was agreed that tags would be introduced from 2010. The movement of every sheep – and goat – would be recorded. Tags currently cost £1.50 – which is sometimes more than the financial worth of a sheep. The UK has a third of the entire sheep population of Europe, and the potential costs of the system are estimated to be as much as £42 million annually.
The Hungarian delegation to the Council of Ministers will request that plans remain optional. Mr Parish has called on DEFRA Secretary Hilary Benn to oppose the scheme. Mr Parish said:
"The government has been making encouraging noises on electronic sheep tagging for some time yet twice they voted in the Council of Ministers to impose this scheme on our farmers. Monday's meeting is the chance for Hilary Benn to correct his past mistakes and stand up for our sheep farmers.
Electronic tags are expensive and offer no benefits to animal health. There may be a time for electronic tagging of sheep, but the technology is just not ready for it yet.
Hilary Benn needs to persuade other governments that now is not the time to bring in the electronic tagging of all sheep. Not only is the technology simply not ready but it is still far too costly."