Response to Defra blog regarding future regulation of farm antibiotics

New EU legislation regulating farm antibiotic use, which will come into force post-Brexit, will ban preventative group treatments in livestock. This will be a huge step forward towards responsible use of antibiotics in livestock.

Unfortunately, Defra is refusing to commit to a similar ban in the UK.

In fact, a recent Guardian article reported on UK plans to allow farmers to continue using antibiotics in feed and drinking water for group prevention, “UK could use Brexit to avoid EU ban on antibiotics overuse in farming”, 27 September 2018. Defra has responded in a blog, claiming that the Guardian reporting of Defra’s plans is inaccurate – though interestingly the blog also fails to back a ban on group prevention.

Defra says the Guardian’s article was based on “hearsay”, and indeed it was. The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics heard Defra’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) say at a stakeholder meeting in July that it planned to implement the EU legislation in some form, but the VMD also said repeatedly that under its interpretation of the new rules agreed by the EU, group preventative treatments in feed and drinking water will remain legal.

This extraordinary claim was made despite all group prevention being clearly banned by Article 111a.2 of the new legislation.

The European Commission, the European Parliament and even the National Pig Association, which opposes the ban, have all publicly stated that the legislation will ban group prevention.

The Government should now admit that the new EU rules will ban preventative group treatments. It should also unequivocally commit to a ban in the UK, be it via EU or domestic legislation.