Sheep farmers appeal to Benn

Sheep farmers will be driven out of the industry if plans for electronic identification go ahead.

That was the message to Defra secretary of state Hilary Benn from an industry delegation, made up of farmers, livestock auctioneers and meat processors.

Representatives from the NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland, National Sheep Association, Livestock Auctioneers Association, British Meat Processors Association and Association of Independent Meat Suppliers told Benn that the implementation of the EU regulation, which is due on December 31, 2009, would have a significant impact on the structure of the UK sheep industry.

They stressed that the current system of sheep identification and batch recording of sheep movements, together with movement standstills, delivered a simple, efficient and cost effective system to control the spread of animal disease.

In a joint statement they said: "The UK has nearly one third of the entire EU sheep flock - 33 million sheep - and 90,000 producers and they play a vital role in maintaining the landscape and economies of the hills and uplands of the UK.

"We told Mr Benn that the regulation as it is written will drive sheep producers out of the sector because of the high costs of implementation in relation to annual sheep farmers incomes, practical problems arising from the use of EID equipment on farms, in markets and at abattoirs, and the difficulties associated with recording the individual identities of the UK sheep flock.

"We need a practical and workable solution for the UK sheep industry and urged Mr Benn to lobby forcefully for the EU regulation to be amended to make EID and individual recording a voluntary, rather than compulsory, requirement for animals that are not involved in intra-community trade."

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