The decision by European farm ministers not to change regulations on the electronic identification of sheep has been met with dismay by the industry.

The National Sheep Association said the Council of Agriculture Ministers’ decision to ignore calls to amend EID legislation, which is set to come into force in 2010, was “disappointing”.

At a meeting of ministers on Monday (22 June), DEFRA minister Jim Fitzpatrick called for the European Commission to change the regulation so sheep did not need to be identified until they left their place of birth.

But while DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn had gained support from some member states, including Germany and Ireland, the Commission rejected any amendments.

Peter Morris, NSA chief executive, said the concessions being sought by Mr Benn would have made a “significant difference” to sheep farmers in the UK.

But he said pressure would be put on the Commission to accept other concessions which were still under negotiation.

“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,” he added.

“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.”