Written Answers. - Animal Identification Scheme.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

36 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to simplify the current system of sheep tagging; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18915/03]

The European Commission has now published proposals for a harmonised system of sheep identification. This proposal is based on individual identification, use of movement documents and registers, a central database and, ultimately, electronic identification. Many of the elements in this proposal are already in place in Ireland as part of the comprehensive national sheep identification system, NSIS, introduced in June 2001. I am satisfied that all elements of NSIS are working well. I have consistently indicated that it would however be open to refinement and further development in the light of operational experience and to accommodate emerging demands and changing circumstances. In that context, the prospect of a harmonised system at EU level obviously holds potential for some change to aspects of NSIS.

While much of the detail of the European Commission proposals will be need to be discussed and examined in the coming months to assess its practical application and while I have concerns about many of the detailed aspects, I can support the broad principle which underlies the Commission's thinking – the need across the European Union for a robust, harmonised system of sheep identification backed up with good record-keeping allowing full traceability of animal movements at all times.