The animal health industry in Europe fully supports the proposal of a global public awareness campaign to be led by the UN General Assembly. The report could have gone further to acknowledge the work already done by the animal health sector in Europe for more than a decade through the awareness campaigns managed by the European Platform for the Responsible Use of Medicines in Animals - EPRUMA (www.epruma.eu) - which has been promoting responsible use of antibiotics in agriculture. These campaigns go hand in hand in with advocating excellent hygiene, biosecurity and good husbandry on farms. The idea of a global awareness campaign at UN level is to be lauded, but ultimately it must be aimed at the end-user, i.e. medical doctors and patients and vets and farmers.
However, despite all these measures, infectious diseases in animals still naturally occur, and in the interest of animal health and welfare, antibiotics are vital to treat animals with a bacterial infection. We have a moral and legal obligation to safeguard the health and welfare of the animals in our care. This also impacts the food supply chain, as any animal that is not treated adequately due to a lack of options (e.g. no antibiotics available) will impact Europe’s food safety and security, as well as public health in the long run. The report could have seized the opportunity to mention that the goal of responsible use ultimately is to come to a use of antibiotics ‘as little as possible, as much as necessary’ – in other words, eliminate unnecessary and misuse of antibiotics on farms.
There is a mention in the report of a possible tax on antibiotics in agriculture. Such a tax-based system on antibiotics could lead to sick animals not being treated which would impact animal welfare. Furthermore, on top of all the other uncertainties additional taxes would be a considerable disincentive for research and development in the antibiotic segment of the animal health industry. It would also contradict the report’s earlier encouragement for more investment and incentives in innovation as the way forward to fight AMR.
Ultimately, antibiotics in animals and people need to be used more rationally and in a more targeted way, maximising the therapeutic effect and minimising the development of AMR (as is stated in the EC Guideline for Prudent Use of Antimicrobials in Animals (2015/ C 299/04) document), while safeguarding animal and public health and animal welfare.