The livestock industry has been set targets to cut antibiotic usage over the next 18 months. But according to the NFU’s livestock chairman they have been driven by politics and are unachievable.
The Government, driven by Downing Street, is putting intolerable pressure on the UK livestock industry to cut antibiotic usage by 2018, according to NFU livestock chairman Charles Sercombe.
Industry representatives were informed at Defra’s headquarters recently of the Government’s plans to reduce antibiotic use in livestock, following Lord Jim O’Neill’s recent report on the global threat of antimicrobial resistance.
The UK has committed to meet an industry-wide target of reducing levels to 50mg/kg by 2018, in line with Lord O’Neill’s recommendations.
Mr Sercombe said: “There was an industry-wide meeting in Defra talking about how other sectors will try and follow the pig example and try to quantify use of antibiotics within the sectors.
"This is being driven by Number 10. It has set a target for delivery by 2018 but this is totally unachievable for the wider industry.
“We will challenge it through this group, but people need to be aware a political decision has been made totally devoid of evidence. Other countries have been given 10 years to reduce their antibiotic usage but we have got to do it in 18 months.”
"The Prime Minister has said it has got to happen because it is the politically expedient thing to do - and we have got to jump."
He said the ruminant sector was trying to find ‘practical solutions’ to the problem.
“But we have got no baseline, no means of assessing how much we use at the minute and we have no plan about how we should do it.”
The National Pig Association (NPA) has launched a Pig Industry Antibiotic Stewardship Programme, which includes commitments to record, benchmark and control the sector’s use of antibiotics.
Antibiotic data for more than 1.2 million pigs has already been contributed to the industry’s new online medicine book.
NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson said: “There is increasing political and public pressure and we need to demonstrate responsible use and show the public and parliamentarians we are aware of our responsibilities on this issue."
A Defra spokesman said: “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a growing threat to human health and the global economy, which is why action is already underway to start reducing antibiotic use in farming.
"The UK has committed to reduce antibiotic use in livestock to meet an industry-wide target of 50mg/kg by 2018, in line with Lord Jim O’Neill’s recommendations.
"We have had constructive discussions with RUMA in its role as independent industry representative and we have been impressed to see the livestock sector and affiliated industries showing a continued energy, commitment and leadership over this important issue.”