A proposal to make the use of electronic identification of cattle mandatory has been rejected by MEPs in favour of voluntary measures.

But a plan to review the rules in five years was added as a caveat by MEPs ahead of the voting session on 11 September.

The addition has prompted concerned calls by farming leaders to avoid the mistakes made when sheep EID was introduced.

Struggles with EID equipment leading to fines under cross compliance have plagued sheep farmers since EID was introduced at the start of 2010.

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe gave a cautious welcome to the MEP vote.

“The letters EID strike fear into farmers after the debacle we experienced over sheep EID. That is why we have worked in Brussels with MEPs and policy makers to learn from the mistakes on electronic sheep tagging with these proposals on bovine EID,” he said.

“Given our past experiences it is slightly worrying that the MEPs have asked the commission to review the voluntary rules on bovine in five years from now but we will continue to work in Brussels to make sure our cattle farmers do not suffer under this review.”
Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board

“It is essential that the introduction of bovine EID remains voluntary to allow farmers to choose to use the technology if they are likely to see a benefit in their farm business. For those farmers that do use the technology it is equally important that they are not penalised for errors which are beyond their control.

“Given our past experiences it is slightly worrying that the MEPs have asked the commission to review the voluntary rules on bovine in five years from now but we will continue to work in Brussels to make sure our cattle farmers do not suffer under this review.”

The MEP vote on the bovine EID regulation comes after the European Commission published proposals to amend its regulations on the identification and registration of bovine animals in August last year.

The proposals provide for the voluntary introduction of bovine electronic identification and the deletion of voluntary beef labelling provisions.

The MEP conclusions will now be passed to EU agriculture ministers to consider, before being passed back to the European Parliament for its final approval.

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