Letter to Secretary of State for International Trade: Farm antibiotic use and new trade deals

The Alliance to Save our Antibiotics has today written to Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade, asking if irresponsible antibiotics use in agriculture is being taken seriously in new trade deals. 


The letter is copied out below:


24th May 2021

Dear Secretary of State,

Re: Farm antibiotic use and new trade deals

As an alliance of medical, environmental and animal-welfare organisations[i] working together to reduce antibiotic misuse in farming, we are very concerned at the prospect of a trade deal with Australia that does not take into account farm antibiotic standards. Allowing the importation of meat and dairy produced with routine antibiotic use would set a very poor precedent for future trade deals, farming standards and global antibiotics stewardship.

The global public-health threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is growing at an alarming pace. The Government-commissioned AMR Review forecasts that, unless effective action is taken, AMR could kill more people each year than cancer kills today. Scientists warn that medical procedures such as hip replacements, caesarean sections and cancer chemotherapy could become impossible without access to effective treatments for bacterial infections.

Recognising this threat, British farmers have taken commendable action to reduce their antibiotic use by about 50% since 2014. The UK Government has successfully pushed a One Health agenda at the global level, which resulted in the 2016 Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Antimicrobial Resistance and the establishment by the UN, WHO, FAO and the OIE of the Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance.

The UK must therefore make every effort to ensure that our trade deals do not undermine the progress that has been made by creating a market for meat and dairy reared through the misuse of antibiotics in other countries, and exposing the UK consumer to greater levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria through food.

The UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, said in his address to the UN’s high-level interactive dialogue on AMR in April 2021, “In my view, it’s [AMR] an existential threat as great as climate change. We must remind ourselves of what it’s like to be faced with an untreatable disease and never forget that feeling, so we don’t ever have to face it again. We need governments to recognise this and act now. And I pledge to do that. We need to get better at how we use existing antibiotics, whether for humans or for animals.”

Australian farm antibiotic standards are significantly lower than the UK’s. Australia has poor surveillance of its antibiotic use and has published no usage data for any year after 2010. In 2010, Australian poultry farmers used 16 times more antibiotics per animal than British poultry farmers currently use and the Australian pig industry used three times more antibiotics per animal. The Australian data for beef and lamb production is not detailed enough to make an accurate comparison.

Australia continues to use five different antibiotics (avilamycin, bambermycin, monensin, olaquindox and salinomycin) as growth promoters in cattle, pigs, poultry and sheep. Using antibiotics as growth promoters is banned in the UK and the EU, and from next year the EU will also ban the importation of meat and dairy produced with antibiotic growth promoters.

Can you reassure us that you and the UK Government will uphold clear antibiotics-stewardship priorities when negotiating trade deals that include animal foods, including with Australia? We ask you to answer the following questions at your earliest convenience:

  • In any new trade deals, will the responsible use of farm antibiotics be a core requirement for all animal foods?
  • Will the trade in animal food only be with countries that collect adequate antibiotic-use data, and which have a robust strategy for ending the routine use of antibiotics in livestock farming, including group prophylaxis?[ii]
  • Will the UK Government commit to banning the importation of all animal foods produced with antibiotic growth promoters?
  • Will the implications of new trade deals for domestic and global antibiotics stewardship be included in the impact assessment for the Australia trade deal, and other future deals?

We consider these to be matters of high importance and urgency, especially due to the speed at which new trade deals are now being negotiated. We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,


[i] The members of the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics are listed below, and we will share your response to this letter with them.

Arzteinitiative gegen Massentierhaltung (Doctors in Germany)


Albert Schweitzer Stiftung

Asociacion Nacional para la Defensa de los Animales

Biblical Foods

Bulgarian Association for Prevention and Infection Control

College of Medicine

Compassion in World Farming

Eating Better

European Community of Consumer Cooperatives

European Association of Hospital Pharmacists

European Environmental Bureau

European Public Health Alliance

European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

Faculty of Public Health

Farms Not Factories

Food and Water Europe

Free Range Dairy

Friends of the Earth Europe

Global Action in the Interest of Animals

German Trauma Society

Global Justice Now

Global Sepsis Alliance


Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome Help - UK E coli Support Group

Health Care Without Harm

Hellenic Sepsis Study Group

How It Should Be supermarket

Humanimal Trust

Immune Macro Biotic Technology

Institute of Primary Care & Public Health, Cardiff University School of Medicine

International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside

Intimate With Nature Society (Bulgaria)

Malta Health Network


MRSA Action UK

National Council of Women of GB

National Obesity Forum


Organic Research Centre

PAN Germany


Part Time Carnivore

Pasture-fed Livestock Association

Real Bread Campaign


Royal College of Pathologists

Royal College of Physicians

School Food Matters

Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group

Send a Cow


Slow Food in the UK

Soil Association

Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming

Sustainable Food Trust

Sustainable Restaurant Association

The Permaculture Association

The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts

The School of Artisan Food

UK Sepsis Trust

Virtual Vet

Whole Health Agriculture

World Animal Protection



[ii] The Government is yet to confirm it will implement a ban on the routine use of antibiotics, including group prophylaxis, in the UK - as the EU has done - but we remain optimistic that it will.




























The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics is an alliance of health, medical, civil society and animal welfare groups campaigning to stop the overuse of antibiotics in animal farming. It was founded by Compassion in World Farmingthe Soil Association and Sustain in 2009. Our vision is a world in which human and animal health and well-being are protected by food and farming systems that do not rely on routine antibiotic use.