RUMA has sent the following response to the Save Our Antibiotics Alliance’s open letter:
“RUMA is an alliance of organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process which aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines on farm. The other recipients of your open letter are RUMA members and will not be replying separately.
“RUMA is grateful to the Save Our Antibiotics Alliance for their open letter clarifying their position in relation to the use of antibiotics in food producing animals. This seems remarkably similar to RUMA’s position. Let us be clear, RUMA acknowledges and accepts that the use of antibiotics in food producing animals can select for the development of resistant strains of bacteria which could lead to the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria in animals. This is why RUMA was established to provide guidance to farmers and vets on the responsible use of antibiotics in order to minimise this risk.
“The RUMA Guidelines recognise that medicines, including antibiotics, need to be used when necessary on farm in order to maintain the health and welfare of livestock. Animals are vulnerable to disease, whatever the system of production. While RUMA members acknowledge that some groups would prefer to see different management methods used in food production, RUMA feels that this should not get linked to a debate about using antibiotics, which are important tools, alongside good standards of husbandry, to protect the health and welfare of the animals. RUMA believes it is important for all farmers (and their vets) to have clear guidance on how to use antibiotics and other medicines responsibly and in conjunction with high standards of animal husbandry.
“The RUMA Guidelines do this with individual species versions targeted to farmers and vets. The Guidelines stress that medicines should not be used as a substitute for good husbandry practices that help to maintain animal health and prevent disease e.g. good ventilation, access to clean water, biosecurity etc. When a medicine is used the Guidelines provide advice to farmers and vets on how this can be done responsibly. This is embodied in RUMA’s view that medicines should be used as little as possible and as much as necessary.
“RUMA’s comments on the Save Our Antibiotics Alliance Report were designed to introduce some proportionality into the one-sided approach adopted in the Report. Whilst the use of antibiotics in animals can and has led to the transfer of antibiotic resistance to humans, it is widely recognised that by far the main cause of antibiotic resistance in humans is the use of antibiotics in humans. The risks are well known and it is important for those involved in the use of antibiotics in both people and animals to work together to minimise them. Antibiotic resistance must be managed wherever it is a risk; as a result of antibiotic use on farms, amongst our companion animals or the much greater risk from use within the human population. RUMA very much hopes that the Save Our Antibiotics Alliance will adopt this collaborative approach rather than just focussing on one comparatively small element of the debate in an apparent attempt to promote their preference for extensive livestock production. “
Notes for editors 1. RUMA is an alliance of organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process which aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines on farm. For further information contact RUMA secretary John FitzGerald (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2. RUMA’s comments on the Save Our Antibiotics Alliance’s Report “Case Study of a Health Crisis” can be found here.