UK Farmers Express 'Disappointment' as MEPs Vote to Stop Use of Antibiotics

UK farming unions have expressed their disappointment after MEPs backed attempts to end the prophylactic use of antibiotics in livestock farming which could impact on the welfare of livestock.

The European Parliament yesterday (Thursday) voted in favour of a resolution on 'The public health threat of antimicrobial resistance' which called to end the use of preventative medicines.

Dawn Howard, from the UK farming union's Brussels office, praised the European Parliament for raising the profile of antimicrobial resistance, but said the final vote highlighted the need for a better understanding of farming practices.

"This is an animal welfare issue. In certain cases and acting on the sound advice of a trained animal vet farmers need to use prophylactic treatment to ensure their livestock remain fit and healthy. We are extremely disappointed with the MEP vote.

"It is particularly frustrating given the call to end the prophylactic use of veterinary medicines goes directly against a resolution adopted by all MEPs in May this year. That resolution from Agriculture Committee chairman Paolo De Castro sensibly called on the Commission to develop a detailed review of the different ways in which antimicrobials are used prophylactically, in order to settle controversy over what is a routine prophylactic and what is an acceptable prophylactic."

Mrs Howard said more research must be done to determine if there is any link between antibiotic use in livestock and a resistance to antibiotics in humans.

"The links between antimicrobial use in animals and the impact on resistance in humans are not clear as stated in the resolution. We need more research to establish if there are clear links and only when there is scientific evidence should the Commission draw up a legislative framework for action," she said.

Mrs Howard added farmers were already reacting to any potential risk by using antimicrobial medicines responsibly.

"Farmers recognise human health must be the overriding consideration guiding antimicrobial use and our combined industry efforts are therefore tailored to encourage responsible use of antimicrobials in farm animals in order to reduce any possibility of loss of efficacy in both animal and human treatment," she said.

“The UK farming unions actively promote the responsible use of veterinary products within UK agriculture. NFU (England and Wales) is a member of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) which has produced guidance on the responsible use of veterinary antimicrobials.

“We have been working with RUMA, at both national and EU level to promote the responsible use of antimicrobials and also to make available practical guidelines on the use of antimicrobials in pigs, poultry, cattle and sheep.”

Source: Farmers Guardian, October 28, 2011 By Olivia Midgley