‘Don’t blame antibiotics use on production systems,’ says UK pig sector
The UK pig sector has warned campaigners against oversimplifying the link between production systems and antibiotics use.
The National Pig Association (NPA) and the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance said it is right that pig and other livestock producers are being encouraged to reduce antibiotics use.
But they said that blaming antibiotics use on types of production is too simplistic, and doesn’t take into account the complexities of treating and preventing disease.
The comments came as campaign groups called for a ban on routinely using antibiotics to treat livestock, and said retailers need to take a tougher stance with suppliers who do.
The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics said growing resistance to antibiotics shows there is an urgent need to cut antibiotics use on farms.
A recent report, Real Farming Solutions to Antibiotics Misuse, called on government and retailers to take action to encourage producers to limit their use.
Farmers also need to adopt more extensive systems to stop diseases from building up, and should be banned from routinely using antibiotics to treat animals, it said.
“It is remarkable that in 2017 it is still entirely legal to feed antibiotics to groups of animals when no disease has been diagnosed,” the report added.
“The solution to this problem is clear – a ban on preventative group treatments.”
However, NPA senior advisor Dr. Georgina Crayford said rather than linking antibiotics use to production systems, it is important to find best practice across all systems.
“Looking at the system is too simplistic,” she said. “We really need to be looking at outcomes, and that means responsible use of antibiotics and a reduction in use.”
The UK pig sector has done a huge amount of work to reduce their use, including a 73% reduction in critically important antibiotics, Crayford added.
Gwyn Jones, chairman of the UK’s Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance, warned that implementing bans on antibiotic use could have unintended consequences for animal welfare.
The UK farming sector has seen antibiotics sales fall by 27% over the past two years, which is a result of farmer and supply-chain led initiatives — not through bans or regulation, he said.
“There’s lots more to do — not least improve data collection and sharing, and expand the collaborative, pre-competitive work of the retailers to the wider supply chain,” he added.
“But the fundamental change in focus we are seeing among vets and farmers is down to support and leadership, not sanctions.”
Posted on March 16, 2018