The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) has published a wide-ranging position paper on antibiotic resistance and antibiotic use in livestock.

Announcing the publication, RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald said that understandably there is much debate at present on antibiotic resistance in human medicine and antibiotic use in human and veterinary medicine. This paper clarifies RUMA’s 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 the recent Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics (ASOA) paper.

Key points in the RUMA paper include:

  • Recognizing antibiotic resistance as an important One Health issue. RUMA feels it is vital that all parties should work together to ensure that antibiotics remain an effective tool in the treatment of humans and animals so that they continue to be available and effective when needed. 
  • The key driver for any controls on the use of antibiotics in animals is to reduce the risk of resistance in humans.
  • Scientific evidence increasingly recognizes that the problem of antibiotic resistance in humans comes largely from the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human rather than animal medicine
  • Antibiotics must be used responsibly in agriculture to stop the possibility of their use leading to problems in animal or human medicine.
  • RUMA supports the call from various quarters for the collection of better data on the usage of antibiotics in animals. 
  • RUMA agrees with the general premise that prevention is better than cure and believes that 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 believes that the responsible use of antibiotics, and other veterinary medicines, is an important component of the care of livestock and RUMA calls on the Soil Association, and others licensing organic production, to allow antibiotics, and all other authorized 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.
  • 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.