Letter submitted to The Guardian 19 July 2017 – ‘Mega-farms’

Sir

Reports on ‘mega farms’ (Guardian 17, 18 July) persist in linking large scale farming with high antibiotic use – despite featuring poultry farmer Richard Williams who says no antibiotic has been used on his site since it was set up two years ago.

Richard is not alone. Since 2012, members of the British Poultry Council’s Antibiotic Stewardship scheme, representing more than 90% of UK poultry meat production, have achieved a 71% reduction in total antibiotic use. The latest UK data highlight a 10% fall in antibiotic sales for farm animals. Sales of highest priority antibiotics to farming have also fallen and new pig industry data shows use of colistin dropped by over 70% between 2015 and 2016 – despite UK farming already being one of the lowest users in Europe.

It may suit campaign groups to add antibiotics to the list of issues they have with larger scale farming, but resorting to global or European data and analogies because the UK data doesn’t back their case is disingenuous. In the UK, scale of farming is not a factor in antibiotic use.

Gwyn Jones
Chair, Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance

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