Livestock: Antibiotics

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered at on 17 May 2023.

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Photo of Tom Randall Tom Randall Conservative, Gedling

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether she has had recent discussions with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on the potential impact of introducing a ban on the overuse of antibiotics on healthy farm animals on levels of antimicrobial resistance.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Defra is a co-signatory with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) 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. These plans both take a One Health, whole of government approach. Defra and DHSC work closely together at all levels, together with other government departments, to deliver this plan. The UK Government is committed to reducing unnecessary use of antibiotics in animals, while safeguarding animal welfare. Since 2014, the UK has reduced sales of veterinary antibiotics by 55%, and over this same period the UK has seen an overall trend of decreasing antimicrobial resistance in bacteria from animals.

Changes to the law on veterinary medicines represent one tool that can be used to help effect reductions in antibiotic prescribing in animals. The Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013 are currently under review, and the feedback from the recently closed public consultation will be analysed and considered. The publicly available consultation documents for the revision of the Veterinary Medicines Legislation set out the rationale for the government’s proposed approach to the use of antibiotics to prevent disease in animals (prophylaxis). In summary, the proposed new legal restrictions on antibiotic prophylaxis prohibit this type [MG1] of use in all but exceptional circumstances to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use, protect animal welfare, and allow changes to prescribing practices to be made sustainably.

Officials from DHSC, Defra and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) meet regularly to consider appropriate actions to address AMR across the human and animal health sectors. This has included discussion of the proposed changes to the Veterinary Medicines Regulations.

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