The impact of the EU referendum on our food and farming is hugely uncertain. Significantly, once the UK’s exit from the EU is complete, the Common Agriculture Policy will no longer apply. Heavily criticised throughout Europe for promoting the intensification of farming, the CAP has nonetheless provided - via agri-environment schemes - welcome funding to farmers and land managers to farm in a way that supports biodiversity, enhances the environment, and improves soil and water quality.
With the forthcoming renegotiation of the UK’s food and farming policies and subsidies - many of which are currently defined at EU level - the UK government now has an opportunity to reshape these to ensure that public money is genuinely attached to the delivery of public goods; a principle which many feel the CAP has failed to deliver in practice.
Responsible farm antibiotic use must be included within a simplified, cost-effective subsidy programme, which recognises the critical implications of veterinary prescribing on public health.
During the current reviews of the EU Veterinary Medicines and Medicated Feed legislations the European Parliament has proposed an EU-wide ban to the routine prophylactic use of antibiotics in group of entirely healthy animals. This legislation will apply to the UK - along with all other EU legislation - as part of the Great Repeal Act. The UK government has repeatedly affirmed its opposition to routine prophylaxis, and indicated that it will support strong measures to prohibit these practices within the EU.
As part of any post EU Referendum strategy for the UK, the government must now support EU proposals for a ban to routine preventative mass-medication of groups of healthy animals, and ensure that such measures are also enshrined in UK law post Brexit. In addition, domestic regulation must be put in place to dramatically curb farm use of the ‘critically important’ antibiotics.
Post Brexit, the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics is concerned that less favourable market conditions will increase the pressure for farmers to intensify production and increase antibiotic use, and that mitigation measures may be side-lined in the drive for ambitious new trade deals.
Emma Rose, Coordinator of the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics, says: “The UK government has often pointed to current negotiations within the EU on veterinary medicines as an reason for inaction on this issue. With the UK set to leave Europe, the government is no longer bound by such constraints. Policy-makers have repeatedly stated their opposition to routine preventative medication of groups of healthy animals. It is imperative that we now see ambitious unilateral action on farm antibiotics which mirrors this rhetoric.”
The Alliance has joined 84 organisations in signing a letter to the new Prime Minister and David Davis MP, the Minister appointed to oversee a new Unit advising the Government and PM on the post EU Referendum strategy. The letter calls on the government to adopt common-sense food, farming and fishing policies that are good for jobs, health and the environment when they plan for the UK’s exit from the European Union.
The organisations point out that better food, farming and trade policies can help to cut greenhouse gas emissions from farming and food industries by 80% by 2050, promote healthier diets, create a vibrant and diverse economy, and support good jobs and working conditions in the UK and overseas.
The signatories call for the UK to prioritise ethical and sustainable production methods which reduce the need for antibiotics, improved animal welfare, support more farmland and marine wildlife, provide a healthy future for bees and other pollinators, as well as enhancing the beauty of the countryside and protecting the environment, whilst also providing a safe and traceable food supply.