Electronic tags on hold

National has promised farmers they will not commit to the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme until after a full cost-benefit analysis. This is very good news. NAIT is a big-brother style scheme that would see every cow and deer in the country recorded on a central database, with the facility to record every sheep and goat as well in the future. Every animal must have an electronic eartag.

The idea behind NAIT is to provide full “paddock-to-plate” traceability of meat for European consumers, because such traceability is something the EU has implemented and EU farmers don’t find it fair that they have such regulation thrust on them yet their competitors (such as NZ) don’t do the same. And certainly, it isn’t fair. The EU should be ditching it, not expecting us to follow suit, but that is another story.

Anyway, paddock-to-plate traceability of meat is a myth. The tags get chopped off along with the head as soon as the animal is slaughtered in the works and it is very difficult to know what animal the meat coming out the other end actually came from. And for some cuts (like mince), the meat comes from hundreds of different animals all mixed together anyway, with traceability being completely impossible. We already have tags in all cattle, and plenty of farmers have stories about animals they believe have been mixed up in the works. Electronic tags won’t change that at all.

The system could also be used to help control disease outbreaks as theoretically the location of all animals would be known on a central database. In practice this won’t work, because as soon as you bring in such a system there is a motivation for people to not record some animals for various reasons such as home-kill meat – these are known as “ghost sheep” in Ireland and are very common. This completely undermines the value of the database.

One major concern is that the database could be used for other purposes, possibly against farmers. There is a strong precedent for this in New Zealand – in 1974 the firearms database was used to confiscate legally owned pistols from many people for example. The Federated Farmers have been concerned that the data could be used to enforce the ETS, or do who knows what.

I have no problem with the market providing a voluntary scheme if that is genuinely what consumers want. But I have yet to meet a consumer who cared about what precise animal their steak came from – most would prefer to not think about it coming from a cute cuddly animal at all. They just want to know that it is safe. This is a socialist scheme being pushed by the EU, for political purposes, and I hope National has the guts to leave it voluntary.

3 Responses to “Electronic tags on hold”

  1. Sb Says:

    “a big-brother style scheme that would see every cow and deer in the country recorded on a central database……”

    That database has existed for over 10 years, the difference is that they are going to use electronic tags rather than the manual ones used at the moment.

    “The tags get chopped off …… coming out the other end actually came from.”

    And processes and technology are being developed to fix that.

    “This completely undermines the value of the database”

    Nope that is not a valid point – this is (for us at least) all about export meat – if meat does not have a record then it will not be exported hence you ghost sheep will not be a problem as their meat will stay in the country.

    “I have no problem with the market providing a voluntary scheme if that is genuinely what consumers want.”

    If we dont do this system or something like it then in 10-15 years we will not be able to export to Europe, USA & Japan – just what will do that to the meat producers.

    Its not a choice we cannot afford to do nothing .

    Sb

  2. Mr Dennis Says:

    No, this database is completely new. The current scheme (I presume you mean the TB tags) only identifies animals back to their herd. If you mean the LIC scheme that records individual dairy cows, that is a voluntary market-driven breeding scheme only, just used by the dairy sector. NAIT is designed to compulsorily record individual animals rather than individual herds, and is far more intrusive than the TB scheme.

    What “processes and technology” do you mean? Once a tag is chopped off it is gone, and although you may try to keep track of the meat for practical purposes it will be virtually impossible to RELIABLY track multiple cuts of meat in different parts of a high-speed meatworks back to individual cows.

    “If we dont do this system or something like it then in 10-15 years we will not be able to export to Europe, USA & Japan – just what will do that to the meat producers. Its not a choice we cannot afford to do nothing.”
    That is a valid point, and we need to consider it. But Federated Farmers are skeptical about NAIT too, and they will have considered this issue long and hard.

    Bear in mind that those countries still need meat. We need to be their best option for it (ahead of Argentina and Brazil for example), but don’t need to implement all the socialist nonsense of those countries. In all three of those countries farmers are paid subsidies, which compensate for this extra bureaucracy – in Ireland 50% of a sheep farmers income is subsidies. We do not have that (nor do Argentina and Brazil), so cannot be expected to have the same level of bureaucracy.

  3. An interesting interview with David Carter, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Bio-security « Kiwi Polemicist Says:

    […] clearly in favour of the Big Brother scheme called NAIT, National Animal Identification and Tracing. One of the major problems with this scheme is that farmers will have to register their animals […]


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