The Policy Landscape

The future of farm antibiotics

In 2022 landmark regulations come into effect across the EU, which includes a ban on the routine use of antibiotics on farms. This has the potential to transform how the EU farms livestock and to create change for the better. Without the routine use of antibiotics it is hoped that across the EU significant measures will be taken to improve the welfare and and therefore health of hundreds of millions of farm animals. 

The legislation will not prevent farmers from giving antibiotics to a group of animals when disease has been diagnosed in some of the animals. This can be necessary on a case-by-case basis in order to prevent the spread of infection to other animals. It says "It [the restrictions] would limit the use of antimicrobials as a preventive measure, in the absence of clinical signs of infection (known as prophylactic use) to single animals and not groups".

The UK government says that it does plan to implement most of the EU measures on farm antibiotic use which come into force in January 2022, but it has repeatedly avoided saying that it will ban preventative group treatments, saying instead that it will consult with stakeholders. A failure to implement a ban on all routine farm antibiotic use including preventative group treatments may result in the UK having some of the lowest standards governing antibiotic use in livestock in Western Europe.

The Alliance to Save our Antibiotics coordinated a letter from ten senior medics to the UK government, urging for the UK to adopt a ban on preventative antibiotic group treatments in livestock. You can read the letter here

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs know no boundaries and can travel globally on food. To protect consumer health, trade policy must not allow the importation of food produced to low standards. Cheap imported food, produced with routine antibiotic use could also threaten the competitiveness of British farming. UK trade policy should aim to protect UK food standards and to promote improvements in global standards.
Our recent report shows the the US uses five times more antibiotics on their farms than the UK. This report has been published in the context of US/UK trade talks currently taking place, behind closed doors. The Alliance has urged those taking part in trade talks to take into account the very high level of antibiotic use in US farming. Read our report here. 

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