Saturday, 2 May 2009

Do farmers dream of electronic sheep?

Counting the sheep used to be a time-honoured way to bypass the ravages of insomnia, and move into the land of nod. Now, following a directive from Brussels, it has taken on a new meaning. Apparently, every sheep farmer within the EU (ewe?) has to endow each member of his flock with an electronic tag. Not being a son of the soil, I’m unsure of the details, but it works something like this.

When Farmer takes his flock to market, each little woollikin has his tag read to ensure that he is who Farmer says he is – ID checks for sheep? When the little woollikins are taken home, or taken wherever, the tags are run through the reader again. This, claims Brussels’ man is the only way to authenticate the mutton stocks, to prevent the spread of disease, and so on.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but shepherding is the oldest profession in the world, featuring strongly in Genesis and other historical works. Present-day shepherds and farmers are at the receiving end of a chain of knowledge and wisdom stretching back thousands of years. Apart from the eye-watering £25 - £30,000 that the system is going to cost each farmer, no-one wants his profession dictated by bureaucrats and electronic merchants.

And what,” asks one farmer, “what will we do if our system breaks down?”

Again, I’m unqualified to answer, but I do think that this example of woolly thinking deserves one, big baaaaaaaaaaaah!

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