LETTER: UK's top medics call on government to ban the routine use of antibiotics in UK farming

LETTER: UK's top medics call on the UK government to ban the routine use of antibiotics in UK farming

Fifteen senior medics have written to the UK government calling for urgent action to tackle the routine misuse of antibiotics in UK farming. A shortened version of the letter was published this morning in the Telegraph. Read the full version below, and the press release here.

To: the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health

"Dear Secretaries of State,

Around 90% of all UK veterinary antibiotic use is for mass medication of groups of animals. [1] There is also significant overuse across Europe of antibiotics classified by the World Health Organisation as ‘critically important’ for people [2], despite growing fears around human bacterial resistance to these vital drugs.

The 2016 O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance states that the evidence linking farm antibiotic use and resistance in human infections “warrant[s] a significant reduction in farm antibiotic use, both by overall quantity and by antibiotics that are important for human health.” [3]

The government is now in a unique position to put these recommendations into practice as part of a post EU Referendum strategy for UK agriculture.

The recent discovery of antibiotic resistant E. coli and MRSA on UK-origin meat from major supermarkets is the latest sign that such practices are undermining the efficacy of our antibiotics. [4]

In March 2016, the European Parliament voted for a ban on all routine antibiotic use in farming, including a ban on the mass medication of groups of animals where no disease has been diagnosed within the group. [5] This proposal will be considered in upcoming Trialogues with the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the European Commission.

We urge the government to:

  • take a strong stand in support of the Parliament’s position during the upcoming negotiations
  • immediately introduce a UK-wide ban on the routine preventative mass medication of animals
  • urgently curb farm use of the ‘critically important’ antibiotics"


  • Professor Maureen Baker, Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners
  • Babulal Sethia, President, Royal Society of Medicine
  • Professor Neena Modi, President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
  • Professor Jane Dacre, President, Royal College of Physicians
  • Professor Derek Bell, President, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
  • Professor David Galloway, President, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
  • Professor John Middleton, President, Faculty of Public Health
  • Cecilia Anim, President, Royal College of Nursing
  • Professor Pali Hungin, President, British Medical Association
  • Dr Tajek Hassan, President, Royal College of Emergency Medicine
  • Mr Michael Lavelle-Jones, President, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
  • Dr Suzy Lishman, President, Royal College of Pathologists
  • Martin Astbury, President, Royal Pharmaceutical Society
  • Dr Richard Horton, Editor, The Lancet
  • Dr David McCoy, Director, Medact
  • Emma Rose, Alliance to Save our Antibiotics



[1] Mass medication accounts for about 88% of UK farm antibiotic use (premixes, ie. in feed, and water medication together account for about 89%), see p29 of https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/477788/Optimised_version_-_VARSS_Report_2014__Sales___Resistance_.pdf ). The European Medicine Agency's report on farm antibiotic states that virtually all premixes and oral powders (for medication via water) is for mass medication: see p26 of http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Report/2015/10/WC500195687.pdf

[2] European Medicines Agency, 2016. Sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents in 29 European countries in 2014, Sixth ESVAC report, p137 http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Report/2016/10/WC500214217.pdf

[3] Antimicrobials in Agriculture and the Environment: Reducing Unnecessary Use and Waste, Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, Chaired by Jim O’Neill. P20

 [4] E.coli report: http://www.saveourantibiotics.org/media/1678/briefing-antibiotic-resistant-e-coli-on-supermarket-meat-a-serious-threat-to-human-health.docx. MRSA findings http://www.saveourantibiotics.org/news/news/livestock-associated-mrsa-found-in-uk-pork/

[5] European Parliament News, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20160303IPR16930/superbugs-meps-want-to-curb-use-of-antibiotics-in-farming