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EU orders horsemeat and chips in equine passport scheme

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The European Union will kick off a single passport and chip system next year - but only for horses and donkeys. Well, for now anyway.

The scheme is, depending how you look at it, either a cutting edge effort to ensure the security and health of Europe’s horses, donkeys and other equines or a dry run for a chipped and compliant human population.

The scheme - COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 504/2008 implementing Council Directives 90/426/EEC and 90/427/EEC as regards methods for the identification of equidae, to give it its full moniker - is due to come into force next July.

It will mean foals must be chipped within six months of birth and issued with a passport. This is all recorded in a database under a “unique life number”. This will be a significant leap in the identification of horses, donkeys and the like, which are currently ID'd via a “hand drawn outline diagram.”

The passport really will be for life – horses sent to the knacker’s yard will have to bring their passport with them “as an essential part of the food-chain information required by the food law”.

Brussels’ chipping plan for horses comes just months after it implemented a similar scheme for sheep and goats.

In a statement, the EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said: "The current system of identifying horses is outdated. It needs to be adapted to the new identification technologies. The regulation adopted by the Commission addresses this issue. It creates a better identification system that in the end will help us fight possible animal diseases."

Quite right. And of course, why should the EU stop there?

Many humans in Europe are currently identified by nothing so complex as a crude picture commonly known as a “photograph”. How much easier it would be if infant Europeans were chipped at birth and issued with a single document and number for life? It’ll never happen of course. After all, who ever heard of the EU treating its citizens like asses? ®

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