NOAH response to O’Neill Report on Antimicrobials in Agriculture

NOAH (National Office of Animal Health) has welcomed the global approach in the Antimicrobials in Agriculture and the Environment document produced by the independent O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). The review, chaired by Lord O’Neill, highlights that antibiotic resistance is a global challenge and not one that just exists in the UK or Europe, where antibiotics are subject to strict veterinary prescription rules.

The report calls for a global target for the reduction of the use of antibiotics in animals, but says it should be for individual countries to decide how best to achieve this goal.

Catherine Sayer, Chair of NOAH, said: “Farmers and veterinary surgeons in the UK, supported by the animal medicines sector, use antibiotics responsibly — as little as possible, but as often as necessary. In the UK, organisations such as RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture) are already making practical steps towards reducing antibiotic use, by setting out responsible use guidelines which aim to reduce the need for antibiotics through biosecurity, vaccination and other animal husbandry measures where possible. However, we must remember that animal species types, husbandry practices and climate conditions vary around the world. Any proposals to apply standards from, for example, Denmark to other parts of the EU and the world, may not be workable.

“NOAH will continue to work with the others involved in the production of food from UK animals to encourage responsible use of all animal medicine. The association also believes that improved recording and monitoring of where and how antibiotics are used by vets and farmers is required,”

“Treating animals when needed is a legal responsibility. European and national animal welfare legislation requires farmers to ensure their livestock receive appropriate treatment without delay, and the veterinary surgeons who prescribe antibiotics are committed to making animal health and welfare their first concern, while prescribing responsibly. NOAH would oppose any proposals encouraging farmers not to treat sick animals, because of the negative animal welfare outcomes that would arise.

“The animal medicines sector will continue to provide the essential medicines that are needed to maintain high standards of animal health and welfare, thus contributing to the continued availability of safe, affordable food for everyone,” she added.

Healthy, well-cared for animals mean healthy food. It remains a fact that like humans, animals will fall ill from bacterial infections on occasion. In these cases antibiotics are essential for their health and welfare.

“In the UK, as well as the rest of the world, there are many more animals than there are people, which goes some way towards explaining why the use of antibiotics in animals, when measured in simple tonnage figures, is similar to that in people,” Catherine Sayer explains. “Also, it must be remembered that a 600 kg cow will require a greater volume of antibiotic to treat an infection than an 80 kg man. A recent ‘One Health’ report published by Public Health England and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate identified that the total human use of antibiotics in the UK was 2.4 times that of veterinary use, when measured on biomass or the comparative weights of the human and animal populations.

“In the UK consumers have come to encourage and expect high standards of welfare which means that animals need to be looked after and treated when they are sick.” Catherine Sayer concludes.


8 December 2015

Notes for Editors

  1. For further information on NOAH contact Alison Glennon at NOAH, tel. +44 (0)20 8367 3131, or visit the NOAH website.

  2. The National Office of Animal Health represents the UK animal medicines industry: its aim is to promote the benefits of safe, effective, quality medicines for the health and welfare of all animals.

  3. NOAH has produced a video dispelling commonly held consumer myths: Animal Medicines in Food Production — Challenging Consumer Myths

  4. Antimicrobials In Agriculture And The Environment Reducing Unnecessary Use And Waste The Review On Antimicrobial Resistance Chaired By Jim O’Neill, December 2015

  5. The veterinary surgeon’s Code of Professional Conduct is here: Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons

  6. Public Health England, Veterinary Medicines Directorate, ‘A joint report on human and animal antibiotic use, sales and resistance in the UK in 2013’ UK One Health Report Antibiotics Use in Humans and Animals Accessed 10th of November 2015