Agriculture has proven it is making headway on its pledge to invest in disease prevention to tackle antimicrobial resistance by 2020.
Defra figures showed sales of antibiotics had hit a Government commitment more than two years early, with a reduction of 27 per cent across the board, the lowest on record since data was first published in 1993.
There has also been an 83 per cent drop in sales of Colistin, an antibiotic of last resort critical for human health.
The encouraging results have been championed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).
UK Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: “We need solidarity across the profession. No veterinary professional must offer an easy route to access antibiotics where they are not justified.
“Tackling antibiotic resistance requires a commitment across all areas of animal health, together with work on human use by colleagues in the medical professions, and our work together to tackle the issue at global level.”
The Defra report highlighted a fall in antibiotic use in food producing animals from 62mg/kg in 2014 to 45mg/kg in 2016, surpassing the Government target of 50mg/kg by 2018.
Officials said the result was a ‘commendable achievement’ from the agricultural and veterinary sector, as the industry began work on sector-specific targets.
Going forward, each sector will challenge its commitment to further reductions in antibiotic usage, with specific targets announced at the Responsible Use of Medicine in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance at its conference at Sainsbury’s, Holborn, last week.
RUMA said its Targets Task Force, made up of a leading veterinary surgeon and a farmer from each of the beef, dairy, egg, fish, gamebird, pig, poultry and sheep sectors, as well as observers from regulators Food Standards Agency and the VMD, would enhance responsible use.
Defra Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity Lord Gardiner added: “Now we must continue making progress and set our sights on reducing use even further.
“Ambitious specific reduction targets in different sectors will be yet another positive step towards safeguarding antibiotics.”