Comment: EID for cattle – the debate is on

The European Commission favours the use of electronic identification (EID) for cattle. Assuming the idea gets the green light from the Council of Agriculture Ministers and the European Parliament, the measure will be introduced across the Community on a voluntary basis. However, individual member states will have the authority to introduce the measure on a mandatory basis from day one.

To be honest electronic tagging offers a host of benefits to the farming and food industries. Let’s be honest: an animal is much less likely to lose an electronic chip than it is a yellow ear tag. In one fell swoop this approach should reduce the scope for cattle rustling and all associated illegal activities.  The latest crime figures again confirm that cattle remain a key target for thieves in many parts of the country. And, let’s be honest, the current large yellow tags are just too easy to remove.

Electronic tagging and e reading will also vastly shorten the amount of time required of vets and farmers to complete a herd test. Again this is more good news for the farming sector. The Commission also points to the benefits which e tagging will offer the food processing sector. And, again, this is more good news for a sector that must be give every opportunity to grow and develop in the most efficient way possible. We export eighty percent of the milk and beef we produce. Anything that can help improve our traceability standards must be looked upon as good news.

But the core question that has to be answered is this: who is going to pay for the new technology? Farmers are already paying a more than realistic price for conventional tags. It would be unfair to ask them to pay more for electronic tags and e readers, if the new system is brought in on a mandatory basis!

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