THE proposed electronic tagging of sheep will inflict serious economic and unnecessary damage on the industry in Ireland, the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) warned yesterday.
A new system which provides for electronic individual identification (EID) of sheep, based on double tagging, together with a central database recording movements on a batch basis is proposed by the European Union.
However, there has been criticism from some quarters regarding the new plans with claims that it will impose an impossible burden on farmers, marts and processors.
Some sheep farmers have also warned that they will be forced out of business as result. It has also been claimed the new system will not improve traceability or disease control.
IFA president Padraig Walshe told the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture that electronic sheep tagging would inflict serious damage on the industry, would not work or would not be used in practice in Ireland.
He said Ireland already has a very good individually based sheep tagging and identification system and imposing compulsory EID would do nothing other than inflict more costs on a sector that cannot afford it.
Mr Walshe urged Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith to go back to Brussels and insist on a voluntary option for Ireland on the basis of the sound and effective tagging system already in operation.
IFA Sheep Committee chairman Henry Burns said compulsory EID would inflict untold damage on the lamb trade as it will be impossible for store lamb buyers to operate.
He said the IFA has already explained to the Department of Agriculture that EID will seriously damage the mart trade and particularly breeding sheep sales.
Mr Burns said with EID tags costing between €2 and €2.50 per sheep, it was the equivalent of charging cattle farmers €30 to tag their animals.
“This was totally unacceptable to sheep farmers and could not be allowed happen,” he said.
Meanwhile, Labour agriculture and food spokesperson Seán Sherlock, TD, urged Mr Smith to acknowledge the concerns about electronic sheep tagging.
He said the reality isthat farmers already have a viable working mechanism for providing full traceability of sheep.
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