The marking of animals and other property with a hot iron has been used for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians branded their animals by pressing a hot metal marker against the animal, leaving an identifying mark. The process continued throughout the ages and eventually spread throughout Europe, even reaching as far as the British colonies, which included countries such as South Africa.
Although animals are still physically marked, the practice has become more sophisticated in recent times with the advent of ear tags and electronic chips, which are used in conjunction with computers.
Abiding by the law
In South Africa, the Animal Identification System (AIS) is the national register of animal identification marks, and the Animal Identification Act, 2002 (Act 6 of 2002) makes it compulsory to mark all cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and even ostriches. These legal requirements help the livestock industry and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to curb livestock theft and to simplify the task of retrieving stolen animals.
Yet there are many who trade livestock without giving much thought to the basic requirements of the Act. Court cases involving livestock theft are often thrown out of court because of disputes relating to the identity of stolen livestock and owners who cannot prove ownership.
In fact, the increase in livestock theft is often attributed to the fact that animals are not marked correctly. Feedlots, producers, speculators, auctioneers, abattoirs and buyers at livestock auctions can unknowingly break the law by receiving stolen goods, according the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO).
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