Recruiting support for tagging reform

A VISIT to Brussels this week by representatives of the national farming unions of Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland has been rewarded with support from a number of other European farming unions in their attempts to get the European Commission to review the rules on sheep identification. This, the unions argued, should be done at the earliest possible opportunity to reduce cost and remove bureaucracy.

The majority of farming unions at the meeting, organised by Copa, the umbrella body for farm unions in Europe, backed the UK and Irish paper. The next stage in the campaign to get a revision of the existing rules will come in June when farming leaders will meet sheep experts from all farming organisations that previously showed support for the UK and Irish position.

NFU Scotland’s livestock chairman and Borders livestock farmer Rob Livesey said the backing given so far by the majority of sheep-keeping nations across Europe “heaps pressure on the Commission for reform of the regulation sooner rather than later”.

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He added: “It is clear from discussions at the meeting that sheep farmers across Europe are increasingly concerned about the problems they are experiencing with the rules.

“The list of issues is growing and many more now share our worries about welfare issues, cross compliance penalties, tolerance levels on tags and the like. The support we gained in the meeting is extremely useful and we hope compelling in getting the Commission to consider review.”

English NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe described the support in Europe as a real step forward in building a broad base to convince the European Commission that EID tagging does not do what it set out to achieve.

“The fact that farmers in other member states are struggling with the same problems as we are reinforces what we have been saying over the past few months,” he said.

Sian Davies, from the UK unions’ office in Brussels added: “We have told the European Commission about our problems with the sheep EID regulation repeatedly but they will not listen to us. So we have called on farming unions from across the EU to help us raise our voice and make the Commission act.

“Farming unions from France, Germany, Spain and Sweden were among those that supported our position in the meeting and spoke about their dissatisfaction.”