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Campaigners Urge Action on Antibiotic Use

by 5m Editor
25 March 2009, at 8:15am

UK - The Soil Association and Compassion in World Farming have written to British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, urging him to recognise the importance of statements made in the Chief Medical Officer’s report, published last week, on the problem of antimicrobial resistance being transferred from farm animals to humans.

Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, warned of irresponsible antibiotic use in the agricultural sector and called for tighter regulation of use in animals.

"Resistant bacteria developing in animals could pose a threat to people. Antibiotics must be used in moderation in agricultural settings and only when necessary for animal welfare," Sir Liam said.

'Every antibiotic expected by a patient, every unnecessary prescription written by a doctor, every uncompleted course of antibiotics, and every inappropriate or unnecessary use in animals or agriculture is potentially signing a death warrant for a future patient.’

Soil Association director Patrick Holden said: "The Soil Association and Compassion in World Farming strongly welcome Sir Liam’s statements.

"We have chosen to raise this issue with Gordon Brown because we feel that only he is in a position to get Defra and the Department of Health working together in an effective and meaningful way to extend the Government’s important campaign to discourage unnecessary antibiotic use by doctors and members of the public to include veterinary surgeons and farmers."

The Soil Association added that while the Government has directly intervened to reduce usage in human medicine, it has relied instead on a range of voluntary initiatives by the farming, retail and pharmaceutical industries purporting to encourage the ‘responsible use’ of antimicrobials. While we welcome these in principle, it is clear that in practice they do little more than endorse the irresponsible approach to the agricultural use of antibiotics and other veterinary antimicrobials that has persisted for many decades.

Compassion in World Farming director Philip Lymbery said: "The responsible use of veterinary medicines is one thing; the routine use of antibiotics to keep animals in unhealthy intensive systems is another. It is imperative that Gordon Brown takes action to address the routine use of antibiotics in intensive farms for the benefit of both human health and animal welfare."

The publication of the Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report coincided with the launch of a documentary ‘Sick as a pig’ commissioned by the Soil Association, in conjunction with Compassion in World Farming, exposing the rise of a worrying new strain of MRSA in farm animals and its link to the continuing regular use of antibiotics in livestock feed.