"......I could add many other issues to do with double-tagging of sheep, electronic identification and many more, but unless there is a clear benefit to be gained from a regulation, it is pointless. I question considerably the need for them, but the key point in this debate is that all those things restrict farming's ability to increase production..." James Paice 30 Jun 2008 HoC debate
The Electronic Identification of sheep is due to become compulsory in January 2010 - what follows is just some of the comments and news items since 2003
See the European Commission's Joint Research Centre Report, finalised in 2006. The pictures and diagrams give an idea of what is involved - and the costs, calculated several years ago.
In early 2009 a Hungarian proposal to make EID voluntary was supported by Germany, Ireland and Greece as well as the UK - but larger Member States (with fewer sheep) including France, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands did not back the resolution.
May 30th 2012 ~ UK wins EU backing over sheep EID burden
The Farmers Guardian today: "UK AND Irish farming unions have won support from farmers across the EU in their bid to persuade the European Commission to review burdensome sheep EID regulations." Sian Davies, spokesman for the UK faming unions in Brussels is quoted by the Farmers Guardian:
"We have told the European Commission about our problems with the sheep EID regulation repeatedly but they will not listen to us. We now feel strengthened to return to the Commission to ask for a review of the regulation with the backing of more farming unions"The UK and Irish farming unions are asking for the follwing changes:
It's hoped that a common agreed position to take to the Commission will be reached in a further meeting next month.
- Tagging to be necessary only when the sheep leave the holding (keepership) of birth.
- Allowing Member States the flexibility to apply a simple, workable tolerance under cross compliance.
- Looking at decreasing administrative burdens, such as the need to record the date of tagging.
March 25th 2012 ~ "An individual farmer, backed by the NFU for example, might be the best approach." William Neville on EID challenge
The Farmers Guardian quotes William Neville, the eminent partner of Burges Salmon (the firm of lawyers that was so active and helpful during the 2001 FMD crisis)
"The fact the Germans have had their case referred to the European Court would be a very good start in the argument in our own High Court; an argument which says it cannot not be decided here but must be referred to Europe.
Of course, it might be adequate to see what the outcome of the German case is but, in all likelihood, by the time it is resolved, EID will have been implemented in the UK. However, if proceedings were started here and referred to Europe, implementation would be up in the air."
February 24th 2012 ~ Rules governing the electronic identification of sheep (EID) could be challenged in the European Court of Justice.
German sheep farmers have been granted the opportunity to mount a legal challenge, after a court in Germany decided they had a strong enough case to take their fight to the highest level in European justice. The Liberal Democrat MEP for Scotland, George Lyon, is quoted by FWi today:
"This court case has the potential to throw a spanner in the works of the controversial EID system. If the action of the German Sheep Association goes all the way then it could force the Commission into a complete rethink over its plans..."Meanwhile, and to the "deep disappointment" of the NFU and others, DEFRA has rejected industry calls to permit a level of tolerance in sheep EID readings in England even though the Macdonald report said it should be a high priority for DEFRA to agree with the EU "appropriate tolerance levels to address errors in data reading when using electronic tag readers". See Alistair Driver's article in the Farmers Guardian today.
January 11 2010 ~ Video guidance on electronic sheep taggin from DEFRA
Defra has video'd several "chapters" as here.
November 30 2009 ~ New EID rules explained at Farmers Weekly
Jonathan Long at FWi poses and answers the many questions farmers have about electronic tagging. The page links to a video
"...but if you have a question you'd like answering which hasn't been addressed here Farmers Weekly is giving you the chance to quiz experts online. Visit www.fwi.co.uk/eid on 8 December between 6pm and 7.30pm when we will have representatives from the National Sheep Association and Shearwell Data available to answer your questions."See also sheeptagging page
November 2 2009 ~ European MEPs furious at EID insistence "a great tragedy that the European Commission claims electronic tagging is necessary.."
There was a special hearing on compulsory electronic identification (EID) for sheep yesterday. Alberto Laddomada*, Head of Animal Health in the Commission said he considered that there was no reason to change the regulations which will be introduced by 1st January 2010. (See Sheep tagging page) Farming Uk reports:
" In an angry response, Struan Stevenson MEP said that the European Commission were modelling their preferred system of EID on trials conducted in Spain. Struan added: "Stationary readers, computers, software and the tags themselves will cost a hill-farmer with 50-score of sheep around £7,000 to set up and over £3,000 a year to run. This is completely beyond their financial scope. It is a great tragedy that the European Commission claims electronic tagging is necessary to avoid a wipe out of Europe's flocks by foot and mouth disease or other diseases."Read in full
Oct 2 2009 ~ Last-ditch attempts by a cross-party group of MEPs to bring EID to a halt failed.
Legislation will still be introduced in January as originally planned meaning that farmers must record each animal's identity every time it is moved. The National Farmers Union (NFU) in Scotland favours a government-funded centralised database, helping farmers comply with current and future requirements "through a potentially paperless system." (See www.shetlandtimes.co.uk "It is also hoped producers with breeding stock in the isles will be able to avoid electronic tagging if they can show their animals stay in the isles until slaughter. Meanwhile the pilot project - run by the Edinburgh-based Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society - will supply tags to producers to test how the process will fare when it becomes reality."
Oct 1 2009 ~ fewer flock owners will have to invest in specialist equipment to read tags.
FWi quotes Peter Morris, National Sheep Association chief executive:
"The agreement between DEFRA officials and industry stakeholders include allowing all movements, where animals remain the responsibility of the same keeper, to be made without the need to record identities. This will include sheep sent away for grazing on other holdings, reducing the paperwork requirement significantly. Sheep farmers will, however, need to ensure they can demonstrate that they are still responsible for the sheep when they are on someone else's holding. Where a single slaughter tag is applied to lambs due for slaughter before 12 months old there will be an option for this to be an electronic tag. Previously the only choice of this tag was a non-EID tag. This would have meant that where store lamb finishers had mixed batches of lambs they would have had to read individual identities manually before sending lambs for slaughter."The concessions have yet to be signed off by DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn, but Mr Morris said he was confident that would be completed in the coming weeks.
Sept 18 2009 ~ voluntary electronic tagging option - a workable solution for the implementation of electronic identification (EID) of sheep from January next year.
The sheep industry and Defra have agreed a deal and farmers will get a choice of an electronic or manual tag for sheep moving direct to slaughter. Lambs under 12 months old intended for slaughter in the UK will be allowed to be tagged with a single non electronic identifier so most sheep farmers will not need to buy reading equipment at this stage. This differs from the "full EID" against which farmers have fought. That requires one visual and one electronic identifier. The Farmers Guardian: "Following months of disagreement, industry stakeholders hammered out an agreement with Defra to form the basis of the final regulation... will now be put before Ministers to be signed off. ... industry stakeholders have now agreed to proposals which would see farmers offered a voluntary electronic tagging option." Peter Morris, chief executive of the National Sheep Association is quoted as saying he still opposed the principle of the regulation and that it was vital concessions were made to make compliance easier for farmers.
July 23 2009 ~ Sheep: Tagging: Another non-answer to a parliamentary question
On Tuesday, Jim Fitzpatrick was asked "when he plans to announce his proposals for the further reduction of the implementation burden on the industry of the electronic identification of sheep".  Hansard Mr Fitzpatricks reply takes up 7 lines - but does not answer the question. Nor does it refer to the fact that the changes to Council Regulation 21/2004 came with a price tag. As NSA's Peter Morris says (see below) , "...Ministers representing all parts of the UK have found themselves in a situation where to achieve this outcome they have agreed to stay quiet on all other parts of these regulations ahead of 2010."
July 15 2009 ~ National Sheep Association reveals that Defra was pushed into agreeing not to seek further concessions
www.nationalsheep.org.uk".... welcome news was negated by the extremely unwelcome news that in order to secure this much needed flexibility Defra had been pushed into agreeing that they would not seek further concessions ahead of the regulation being introduced.
NSA Chairman of Council Jonathan Barber said 'NSA is pleased that the continual efforts of the organisation to ease the burden of this regulation have been rewarded by this flexibility. It is very sad that it is so difficult to achieve even the most basic and common sense pieces of flexibility, but that reflects the environment in which these regulations are being discussed. It is important now that sheep farmers start to understand what this regulation will mean for them and how concessions such as this might help them cope'
Angry at the decision by Defra not to further challenge the regulation in return for securing this flexibility, NSA Chief Executive Peter Morris said
'NSA is totally appalled that Defra officials and Ministers representing all parts of the UK have found themselves in a situation where to achieve this outcome they have agreed to stay quiet on all other parts of these regulations ahead of 2010. If this is an example of the sort of relationship that exists between UK, the EU Commission and other member states then there are some deep rooted problems which need to be recognised and addressed. Surely principles of democracy and the right to represent the interests of citizens of individual member states are compromised when the detail of regulations are agreed in this manner. Everyone knows that the UK sheep industry is the biggest in the EU and produces far more high quality sheep meat than any other country. It is the UK industry that will be the hardest hit of any in the EU by the introduction of these pointless rules, yet it is the UK that has to shut up and now seemingly just silently accept what is coming. ....".Read in full
July 14 2009 ~ SCoFCAH has voted to amend the Annex of Regulation (EC) 21/2004
All sheep (and goats) will still have to be electronically tagged by next January - but the new concessions include: the electronic reading of animals at critical control points (eg markets, slaughter houses) instead of at each single farm, a simplified procedure for retagging of animals and a reduction in the information demanded for each year's inventory. Google news
July 7 2009 ~ Sheep tagging - Hansard yesterday
Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department plans to take at EU level following the rejection of the Government's proposed amendment to Regulation 21/2004 on electronic identification of sheep at the EU Agriculture Council meeting of 22 June 2009; and if he will make a statement. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: We are continuing to work closely with the Commission and have received positive feedback from them on a further proposal to reduce the EID implementation burden on industry, which would provide for individual recording to be carried out at critical control points i.e. markets and abattoirs on behalf of the keeper. If secured, this could reduce industry implementation costs by a further 35 to 40 per cent.
June 24 2009 ~ Decision by European farm ministers not to change regulations on EID has been met with dismay
The proposed changes would have delayed individual tagging of sheep until they left the holding of their birth. It was supported by Ireland, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia but was rejected by Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou. The National Sheep Association said this was "disappointing" and that the concessions being sought by Mr Benn would have made a "significant difference" to sheep farmers in the UK. The Farmers Weekly quotes Peter Morris, NSA chief executive
"Despite the fact that there is increased support from other member states as their understanding of the implications of these rules increases, there is still a long way to go before we have enough support to really put the EU Commission on the back foot. Nevertheless NSA remains undaunted in all its efforts to fight this regulation. However you look at it, there is no justification for it being introduced, as it will achieve nothing to help disease control. When there is a clear injustice such as this, then the objections can never stop, even if the regulation is foisted upon sheep farmers."
June 22 2009 ~ EID: Scottish proposal to defer electronic tagging will be raised in Luxembourg.
It is estimated that introducing the tagging will cost about £3 per sheep - a cost that many feel is unnecessary and will lead to drastically reduced flocks. The BBC reports today that EU ministers will consider Scotlands plea to defer the electronic tagging rules. The Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead who said he was "delighted" the Scottish proposal would be considered at a meeting in Luxembourg of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. "We will continue engagement with the UK Government to press the commission to reduce the burden of implementation .."
The National Farmers Union Scotland has warned the electronic readers involved in making the scheme work would in many cases be compromised by working conditions - especially in Scotland, where sheep are regularly sent out on to rocky or hilly terrain, often for months at a time.."
June 5 2009 ~ we read in the Farmers Guardian that Hilary Benn has promised at least to try
to make EID less difficult and to ask his counterparts "... across the EU to seek support for a further measure which would help our farmers. The proposal would allow farmers to delay tagging their sheep until they leave the holding.."
June 2 2009 ~ EID " if the proposal becomes law, up to 30 per cent of Scotland's greatly reduced breeding flock would disappear... "
The Scotsman: "...Richard Lochhead, the Rural Affairs Secretary, has been subject to criticism on this issue. However, he stands firm ahead of a meeting today in London with the Westminster Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, which will be attended by the farm ministers from the devolved regions.Read in full
Speaking last night, Lochhead said: "Although Europe has made some concessions - delaying the original introduction date and allowing the regulations to be phased in - they do not go far enough..."
June 1 2009 ~ EID "The government must recognise there is much more flexibility available" Peter Morris
Farmers Weekly today quotes the National Sheep Association chief executive
"We believe it would be within the rules for a single electronic slaughter tag to be used instead of double tagging. This would allow reading of tags to be done at market rather than by the farmer - reducing the pain to individual producers and the negative impact on the industry. ...We have had no choice but to talk to DEFRA about these regulations, because if they are left to their own devices the end result will be far worse...Sadly this is damage limitations we are talking about. Nevertheless, it is important the industry unites behind a common view which will result in the authorities taking full advantage of the flexibility open to them."Read in full
May 30 2009 ~ Scottish politicians of all parties are urging UK Govt to reverse the EU's compulsory EID ruling
See Farmers Guardian
"....During a debate at Holyrood on Wednesday (May 27) MSPs gave their backing to a motion put forward by Liam McArthur which called for the Government to push Europe hard on the issue....Mr McArthur said a recent pilot project - the results of which will be published next month - proved the system was expensive and unworkable, and warned it could lead to a further decline in the Scottish flock. He called on Ministers to put pressure on the EU to reverse the decision and to make EID voluntary, saying there was still time to make key changes to the regulations..."The FG quotes Mr McArthur:
"I believe that the debate is still live ... Success will require a concerted and genuinely collaborative effort over the coming months. Evidence must be gathered, arguments crafted and alliances fashioned with other member states and farming industries. Most of all though, the Scottish Ministers must engage directly and urgently with Commissioner Vassiliou, who has offered to consider a more flexible approach."He was backed by a number of MSPs from across the political spectrum.
Thursday May 28 2009 ~ Lib Dems in Scotland use sheep to protest at electronic tagging
The Herald reports that a small flock of sheep were "delivered" to Holyrood:
"....Scottish farmers claimed it would lead to accelerated decline in the industry. A LibDem motion expressing concern about the scheme has been backed by SNP, Labour and Tory MSPs. Orkney MSP Liam McArthur will lead a back-bench debate on the issue at the Scottish Parliament."The Electronic Identification of sheep is due to become compulsory in January 2010.
May 10/11 2009 ~ The final straw for sheep farmers?
www.yourcanterbury.co.uk reports that farmers taking part in DEFRA's consultation say sheep tagging rules really must be changed if peopleare to be persuaded not to give up - and that some farmers "believe their views are likely to fall on deaf ears." Alan West, secretary of the Romney Sheep Breeders' Society, is quoted:
"I have no problem with electronic identification. The problem I have is that it's going to be compulsory....The problem lies with the EU but Defra is not renowned for sticking its head above the parapet. If the regulations stay as there are, there will be some farmers who say enough is enough. What with the problems in the past with foot-and-mouth and bluetongue, this could end up being the final straw."To be fair, Defra has successfully managed to negotiate that sheep under the age of 12 months destined for slaughter don't need to be tagged - although this isn't yet official. The problem for farmers is that there are no easily seen benefits of this EU-wide compulsory system. More
April 15 2009 ~ Sheep EID "This could do to the sheep industry what TB is doing to the cattle industry."
From January 1 next year, each of Britain's 30 million sheep will have to be fitted with an electronic tag. 92 per cent of the cost will fall on farmers themselves at a cost of £5,000 for an electronic tag reader and up to £1.50 per tag. The Telegraph quotes John Hore, a farmer from Pilning, near Bristol:
"We are prepared to fight this to the bitter end. "The strength of feeling is such that it is quite possible we will see farmers taking to the streets. We are just not being listened to. And we need our government firmly behind us. We have 30 million sheep in this country - probably more than the rest of Europe put together. They want each one of those sheep to be individually identified. And farmers are saying 'No, it's just not possible'. This could do to the sheep industry what TB is doing to the cattle industry."The technology is likely to prove faulty in real life conditions. FUW hill farming committee chairman Derek Morgan is also quoted: "I dread to think what the full costs to the EU sheep industry will be. This report simply adds to the already overwhelming evidence that shows that costs of EID are completely disproportionate, while the benefits are negligible, and could actually be negative in the case of a disease outbreak. "We are committed to fighting this ridiculous legislation to the bitter end ....."
March 27 2009 ~ A Cumbrian farmer and leading lobbyist against compulsory electronic sheep tagging Alastair Mackintosh believes there is still hope of concessions from the European Commission.
Cumberland News: "Now is not the time to say 'I give up' The commission is going to implement individual recording of sheep. But perhaps we can find some means where we can make it more manageable for farmers. As far as we're concerned, the fight goes on. I want to work with Defra to find out exactly where we are with this. It seems to me that the senior commissioner Androulla Vassiliou is already suggesting we might find some sort of compromise. I'm not sure how big the compromises will be and if they will be helpful. I will sit down with Defra minister Jane Kennedy as soon as possible. We need to get an understanding from her as to what has been achieved."
The National Sheep Association (NSA) has pledged to continue its work to prevent the regulation being imposed on the UK sheep industry next January. Support for the Hungarian proposal to make EID voluntary came from Germany, Ireland and Greece as well as the UK. Crucially, larger member states including France, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands did not back the resolution...."
February 8 2009 ~ sheep farmers claim "crazy" and "unnecessary" EID could force farmers on to the streets in protest
"Farmers argue that British sheep are already identified by numbers and batch movements are recorded. That, in addition to restrictions on animal movements during disease outbreaks, is sufficient to combat further epidemics, they say. The huge costs associated with introducing the scheme - around £5,000-£6,000 for a machine to scan the tags, which themselves could cost between 50p and £1.50 each - would be enough to sink some farms, they claim..... Farming organisations in Spain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden have backed Britain's protests."The Observer quotes farmer John Hore, from Pilning, near Bristol. ...."It's one thing to operate the system under a roof where it is relatively dry and warm. It's quite another to do it out in the middle of Exmoor in winter, when your hands won't work." (More on electronic sheep tagging)
November 12 2008 ~ EID. Cannot EU Ministers speak with one voice?
Jane Kennedy's answer to the parliamentary question from Alan Reid about the mandatory introduction of electronic identification of sheep scheduled for 2010:
"There is a serious risk of disallowance on our farm payments and potential EU infraction proceedings if we fail to comply with EU law. We will therefore introduce electronic identification in England from 31 December 2009."However, since Lord Rooker revealed on September 12that, at the Limoges conference, there had been " a complete slamming of EID - almost all speakers were against it...We want a review of the regulation so it imposes fewer burdens" one wonders at the apparent unwillingness of EU Ministers - at least those from UK, Ireland, France, Spain and Romania - to present a united front in opposition to a scheme considered by all those who understand its implications not only to be inefficient and unworkable but also to present a real threat to the continuing existence of hill farming.
November 11 2008 ~ Just at the very time when we need to encourage local food production EID will provoke an exodus of hill farmers.
As we can read in the Farmers Guardian, the Dutch EID trial findings, presented in Brussels yesterday
" has shown the scheme will cut sheep farmers income by a third if implemented and is 'unworkable' and 'inefficient'.."Electronic readers are required - and the extra cost of putting the individual sheep onto the central database means EID would cost the farmer an additional 6.62 euros for every sheep each year. Few sheep farmers will be surprised to read that Alyn Smith, Scotland's MEP member of the Agricultural Committee, said these costs would "be enough to turn our already dreadful destocking trickle into a torrent"
At the recent European conference (see FG) called by French Minister, Michel Barnier, the overwhelming consensus was to make the scheme voluntary. Lord Rooker had told the FG "There was a complete slamming of EID - almost all speakers were against it...We want a review of the regulation so it imposes fewer burdens." See also warmwell's sheep tagging page.
October 2 2008 ~ welfare- unfriendly, disproportionate - and of no benefit for the producer or consumer.
The existing system of sheep identification, and batch recording of sheep movements, is an efficient and cost-effective way of controlling animal diseases, yet the EU continues to insist on EID from January 2010. It might seem a modern and efficient solution to those in carpeted offices - but results of EID trials on 14 farms in Wales - (See August posting - are far from encouraging.
"Older farmers have struggled with the equipment, while the hardware and software produced by different companies has often been found to be incompatible. EID readers struggled to work in cold and wet conditions, and at markets and abattoirs equipment suffered electrical interference."As James Paice said (in June) "unless there is a clear benefit to be gained from a regulation, it is pointless."
That farmers are utterly frustrated is well illustrated by this email, received today from a law-abiding and decent farmer:
"While I applaud the NFU and the NSA's attempts to get this irksome legislation reversed, surely the simplest answer is for famers just to ignore it? Abbatoirs and markets will not be geared up to read these tags as each tag manufacturer needs unique reading equipment so they will have to let batches through without electronically checking anyway. Passive resistence from us all would seem the logical answer."FUW vice president Glyn Roberts has an ongoing petition on the Prime Minister's website, the CLA petition is here - and there is more information on the scrapie pages (all open in new windows)
Wednesday, July 16, 2003 ~ "contradictory and against the welfare of the animal (double tagging of calves and sheep is an example)"
To: Mary CSent: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 7:13 PMSubject: Re: 'Future vision' for animal welfareMary,thank you for your mail.Of course you may use my name - I have never been afraid to stand up for what I believe in - just wish I had more time to devote to it.Most farmers I know do their very best for their livestock *and* try their abolute best to comply with the regulations - some of which are contradictory and some against the welfare of the animal (double tagging of calves and sheep is an example).Problem is that we are isolated. The family farmer is so darned overworked trying to care for his livestock (often single handed) and keep body and soul together that he does not have time for NFY/TFA/FARM/FFA meetings - he barely has time or energy to read the FW after he has completed all of the Defra/MAFF paperworkWe don't have time or energy to be out there picking up on what is happening - who is saying and doing what.The harder things get the more our noses are to the grindstone trying to survive. 33 years ago my husband talked of getting out of farming - I sat on the fence promising support whatever his decision.I wish I had had the courage to speak up and encourage him to get out whilst the going was good.Pat