The National Pig Association (NPA) said targeted use of antibiotics to prevent disease in pigs remained an important tool for protecting pig health and welfare.
A European approval of a ban on prophylactic use of antibiotics could have a major impact on the UK pig sector if farmers are not given the opportunity to plan ahead.
This was according to the National Pig Association (NPA) which said a move to ban the routine use of preventative antibiotics in farm animals by 2022 was ‘overly restrictive’.
The European Parliament said the move was due to ‘overuse of antibiotics’ in farming which it said had prompted ‘strong evidence’ to suggest it had contributed to an increase in the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
But the NPA said targeted use to prevent disease in pigs remained an important tool for protecting pig health and welfare.
NPA senior policy adviser Dr Georgina Crayford said: “For example, where antibiotics are used in the absence of clinical signs to medically eliminate a known disease, or while a farmer is waiting for supplies of a vaccine to arrive.
“Therefore the National Pig Association feels that the EU ban on prophylaxis is overly restrictive.
“Nonetheless, with the new rules not coming into force until 2022, hopefully farmers and vets will have sufficient time between now and then to plan for effective disease control without preventative use of antibiotics.”
Defra Secretary Michael Gove said the UK ‘did voice concerns about the restriction of prophylaxis to individual animals’ and the Government would work with stakeholders to agree how the restrictions could be ‘implemented in practice’.
Dr Crayford said the use of antibiotics in UK pigs had fallen more than 50 per cent in the last two years and it recognised preventative use ‘just in case’ was no longer acceptable.
The Government said preventative antibiotic treatments for individual animals would be still permitted in exceptional circumstances where risk of disease was high, as well as in group treatments if disease has been diagnosed in some of the animals and no alternative is available.
Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance secretary general Chris Lloyd said: “RUMA has clearly stated that it does not support routine preventative use, a position also held by the UK’s professional veterinary societies, and is pleased that voluntary, grassroots actions in each UK livestock sector is steadily eliminating such practices before regulation is required.
“However, it is important that antibiotics remain available under veterinary prescription to safeguard animal health and its associated welfare, as well as food safety.”
Colin Nunan, campaign manager for the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics, said if the government rejected the EU ban, the UK could end up with some of the weakest regulatory standards in Europe which would ‘raise questions about the kinds of trade deals we will be seeking with non-EU countries that often use much higher levels of antibiotics in farming’.