Brussels agrees to concessions on sheep tagging

Major concessions which will significantly reduce the impact of sheep tagging rules have been agreed in Brussels by the EU’s Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH).

The amended rules allow for the introduction of critical control points, which will mean animals’ electronic tags will be scanned at markets or abattoirs rather than on farms.

The agreement means farmers will not have to buy their own tag readers, which is expected to reduce their costs by an estimated £7m-£18m each year.

The proposals, developed and put forward by the Scottish Government in conjunction with DEFRA, are regarded as a significant breakthrough for the sheep industry and were warmly welcomed by Scotland’s rural affairs minister , Richard Lochhead, and junior DEFRA minister Jim Fitzpatrick, who described it as “the right decision”.

Mr Fitzpatrick added: “Combined with the two-year deferment to implementation and the other changes that we’ve worked alongside the sheep industry to secure, the overall cost to the industry could be reduced by up to £65 million, depending on how the industry uses the concessions we’ve won together.”

However NFU Scotland was not satisfied with the compromises made by the EU to date and pledged to continue the fight over the Electronic Identification regulation. Union president Jim McLaren said there should be no need to electronically tag any sheep until it leaves its holding of birth.

“It is not acceptable for the UK government to now view this campaign as over,” said Mr McLaren.

” We were told months ago to forget about this issue because it was all apparently done and dusted. Yet we have shown what concerted and committed action can achieve. We must press on further now and consider this as a foundation for getting a regulation that can actually work and deliver for all.”