Electric fence proposal put on hold after farmer lobbying

Proposals to reduce electric fencing energiser power to five joules have been put on hold as a result of lobbying by the British Standards Institute and NFU Scotland.


“Our lobbying has paid off and we have now heard that more consideration will be given to the issue before the introduction of the new standard,” said SNFU policy director, Scott Walker. “Hopefully, this will ensure a sensible outcome that doesn’t disadvantage farmers.”


The European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) announced last September that from 2009, energisers which produce more than five joules output energy would not be covered by European standards.


The BSI’s request for a UK derogation was rejected on the grounds of public safety but CENELEC has now agreed to postpone the introduction of the new standard by a year. A working group has been established to reconsider the proposal and update the standard before its implementation.


NFU Scotland has argued that there is little evidence that electric fences present a significant enough danger to warrant lowering the output level. Reducing power could, in fact, have the opposite effect.


“The increased danger of escaped livestock, for which there is a great deal of evidence, far outweighs any additional safety created by weakened fences,” said Mr Walker.


“Farmers can be held liable for injuries, and even death, caused by livestock which is of real concern.


“This is yet another example of regulation with potentially significant cost but little, if any, public benefit.”


The union has said that the proposal smacks of a battle between manufacturers to knock each other out of the market which could end up with farmers being the losers.


“If we get to the point of having to rip out one battery and replace it with four others at different points on the fence, it’s going to be costly,” said deputy chief executive, James Withers.


“If there is a genuine safety debate, which looks extremely unlikely, then there needs to be an analysis of whether the cost of change is worth the supposed benefits.”