A massive pile of papers from Defra has arrived on my desk with the new rules for the Electronic Identification of Sheep (EID) which has just come into law. When these proposals were first mooted a year ago they were fiercely opposed and their imposition is a bitter blow to sheep farmers. I have 200 Herdwick sheep at High Lowscales, some of them descended from the herd kept by Beatrix Potter. They are “hefted”, which means that they don’t stray from the land on which they were born. The new law means that all sheep born after 1st January this year must be fitted with two identifying tags, one electronic and one non-electronic. The new law will benefit no-one but will impose a heavy burden in time and money on farmers, auctioneers and abattoirs. This week’s Farmer’s Guardian said: “EID has been branded disproportionate and damaging to the UK farming industry, which fought a desperate battle, backed by the UK government, to stave it off.”
If this proposal was strongly opposed by the UK government how on earth, you may ask, has it become law? It is also opposed by the Conservatives, the Lib-Dems, the National Farmer’s Union and every other pressure group in farming. A letter to our Member of Parliament was a complete waste of time because the law was imposed without a vote in Parliament and because there are no elected representatives of the European Commission who imposed it.
This is depressing, but not nearly as depressing as the thought that the pending election won’t do anything to change this sad state of affairs, whoever wins.