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Livestock: Antibiotics

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 110862, tabled on 14 December 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps she is taking to encourage farmers to reduce the use of antibiotics on livestock; and if she will bring forward legislative proposals to tackle routine overuse of antibiotics on groups of healthy animals.

Answered on

9 January 2023

Defra is a co-signatory with the Department of Health and Social Care of the UK's Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) 5 year National Action Plan (2019-2024) and the UK's 20 year Vision to Contain and Control AMR by 2040, documents which set out the UK’s shorter and longer term goals for mitigating the threat of AMR.

The UK Government is committed to reducing unnecessary use of antibiotics in animals while safeguarding animal welfare. It has been our position for many years that we do not support the routine or predictable use of antibiotics, including where antibiotics are used to compensate for inadequate farming practices. We seek to reduce veterinary antibiotic prescribing through a combination of approaches, including improved biosecurity, stockmanship and good farming practices, disease prevention (including vaccination) and use of diagnostics. To date in the UK, collaborative working between government, the veterinary profession and the agriculture sectors to focus on these issues has resulted in our national sales of veterinary antibiotics reducing by 55% since 2014, and in 2021 we recorded the lowest antibiotic use to date.

Changes to the law on veterinary medicines is one of the tools which can be used to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing in animals and, as one element of a programme of interventions to help deliver the UK's 5-year national action plan on antimicrobial resistance, it is our intention to strengthen our national law in this area.

Over the past year the Veterinary Medicines Directorate has engaged in a comprehensive dialogue with stakeholders about a broad range of changes that we propose to the Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013, which set out controls on marketing, manufacturing, supply and use of veterinary medicines. Proposed changes include new measures to help tackle antimicrobial resistance.

We are now preparing to publish a formal consultation paper setting out our proposals which will provide the opportunity for all affected stakeholders to express their views. Following the public consultation, we anticipate laying new legislation in 2023.

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