5 June 1998

Sheep IDcould

be used by French

as import block

for

By FWreporters

EU Commission plans to improve identification and traceability in the sheep, pig and goat sectors have received a mixed reaction in Britain.

A new report, written by a commission vet, details the measures currently in place across Europe and considers options for improving and harmonising controls. MAFF has sent the document to interested parties, seeking their views.

Stephen Rossides, head of the NFU livestock department, said the most welcome aspect of the report was that the commission had dismissed the idea of individual, unique identification for every sheep in the EU flock as impractical. "Thats a big step forward because, originally, this commission vet wanted individual sheep tagging to be introduced."

But, according to David Raine, chairman of the National Sheep Association, the commissions latest drive for more robust traceability is being driven by the French, who, he says, have a hidden agenda. Speaking at the Northsheep event at Kendal on Wednesday, he warned: "Brussels officials and EU farm ministers must beware being driven to unnecessary bureaucracy and cost for the sheep industry by the French who are pushing this issue as a means of closing their market to imports," said Mr Raine.

French sheep are tagged with individual numbers at birth, and have another tag added at six months of age by a ministry vet, according to NSA chief executive John Thorley.

The report concluded that electronic identification of stock was the ideal solution, but that suitable technology was not yet available. The only option, the commission concluded, was to tighten existing "conventional " methods, including farm records and the use of traditional ways of identifying stock.

Any proposals must be practical and cost effective, he said. But he accepted that extra steps might have to be taken to preserve Britains export market.

David Chennells from the Pig Veterinary Society said the unique structure of the pig industry in the UK did not warrant the tagging of all pigs which would be unnecessary and could cause welfare problems.

Improved cattle traceability has already been agreed by EU member states, with all countries obliged to have a computerised database in place by 2000.