Antimicrobial resistance & animal welfare

On 05/02/2016, in All posts, by Animal Welfare Intergroup

On Thursday 04 February, the Intergroup has discussed the overuse of antimicrobials in intensive animal production which significantly contributes to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This represents a serious human and animal health threat and is also unacceptable on animal welfare grounds.


Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Adviser at Compassion in World Farming stressed on the need of putting an end to routine preventive use of antimicrobials in groups of food-producing animals.

 In intensive production, animals are kept in overcrowded conditions and are unable to perform natural behaviors. These stressful conditions can compromise their immune responses and encourage the development and spread of infectious disease. To prevent this, antimicrobials are frequently given to whole herds or flocks of intensively farmed animals via their feed and water. The European Medicines Agency has said that “this provides favourable conditions for selection, spread and persistence of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria”.

The prohibition should however not prevent prophylactic use in an individual animal, for example following an operation or a difficult birth nor should it prevent prophylactic use in a group of animals in exceptional circumstances, for example in a national or regional disease outbreak.

Dr JVaartenan Vaarten, Executive Director of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe stressed that the best way of preventing diseases in animal farming is to apply good husbandry practices.

The housing has to be adapted to the species specific needs of the animals and the management systems have to be optimized. Most antimicrobials are used around critical moments in the animals’ life: weaning, transport, re-grouping, production-peaks. During these periods particular attention has to be made.

Good bio-security, between farms and on the farm (smaller units) is key to prevent disease spreads.

When antimicrobial treatment is needed, the correct treatment should be used following a proper diagnosis by a licensed veterinarian who should prescribe the antimicrobials used for the animals under her/his care.

The farmers ensuring the daily care of the animals have to have sufficient knowledge and skills to handle the animals. Record keeping and pharmacovigilance are other important aspects.

Good animal husbandry is key, but it requires efforts and investments. Consumers have to be aware about this and should be willing to pay higher prices for food of animal origin.

The two presentations were followed by a lively debate with the attending MEPs. All agreed that the preventive routine use of antibiotics should be stopped. This is a request of the European parliament which has been made already during the previous term however the prophylactic use of antibiotics continues to be applied.


The case for ending routine preventive use of antibiotics in farming

Peter Stevenson , Chief Policy Advisor– Compassion in World Farming: PPT presentation & briefing

 Animal husbandry: the key to fight AMR in animals.

Dr Jan Vaarten, Chief Executive Director, FVE – Federation of Veterinarians of Europe: PPT presentation


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