The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) has released what it calls a “wide-ranging position paper” on antibiotic use and resistance in livestock.

RUMA secretary general John FitzGerald said the paper comes as a time of “much debate” on antibiotic resistance in human medicine and antibiotic use in human and veterinary medicine. With the Prime Minister raising the issue and two parliamentary committees considering it with various groups, including RUMA, the paper, said the alliance, clarifies its position on antibiotic resistance and how antibiotics can be responsibly used in UK livestock.

It also addresses some of the “inaccurate assertions” about the use of antibiotics in livestock in a recent Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics (ASOA) paper, Mr FitzGerald said.

Key points in the paper include:

  • Recognising antibiotic resistance as an important one health issue – RUMA feels it is vital all parties work together to ensure antibiotics remain an effective tool in the treatment of humans and animals so they continue to be available and effective when needed
  • RUMA claims the key driver for any controls on the use of antibiotics in animals is to reduce the risk of resistance in humans
  • Scientific evidence, says RUMA, increasingly recognises the problem of antibiotic resistance in humans comes largely from the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human, rather than animal, medicine
    RUMA recognises antibiotics must be used responsibly in agriculture to stop the possibility of problems in animal or human medicine
  • The alliance supports calls for the collection of better data on the usage of antibiotics in animals.

Elsewhere, RUMA also agrees with the general premise that “prevention is better than cure”, and believes antibiotics can be used responsibly in both human and animal medicine to prevent disease and suffering. RUMA does not, however, support the routine preventive use of antibiotics where such disease challenge can be prevented by better husbandry and farm management.

RUMA said it also believes the responsible use of antibiotics and other veterinary medicines is an important component of the care of livestock and calls on the Soil Association and others licensing organic production to allow antibiotics, and all other authorised medicines, to be used responsibly in the interests of animal welfare.

Critically important antibiotics for human medicine should be used sparingly and not routinely as first choice antibiotics in animals, it said, and removing any antibiotic from animal use will “put more pressure” on the antibiotic classes used in its place, thus “increasing the likelihood of resistance developing“.

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