Archive for the ‘RUMA News’ Category

Response to publishing of antibiotic use data by retailers – December 2017

In response to the recent publishing of farm animal antibiotic usage data by several retailers, John FitzGerald, Secretary General of RUMA, says:

“We welcome the supportive approach many retailers have adopted with their farmers for a number of years over responsible use of antibiotics, and understand why some may wish to publish their own datasets. However, it remains important that the use of antibiotics in farm animals does not become a competitive issue. Above all, we must retain the ability to treat animals, or animal health and welfare will be compromised.

“The best way of achieving long term sustainable reductions while safeguarding animal health and welfare – as well as food safety – is through a collaborative, pre-competitive approach, where best practice is shared and farmers are supported. We are therefore pleased at the British Retail Consortium’s confirmation that UK retailers remain committed to working together to ensure sustained and consistent improvements.

“Collecting and collating robust data from on-farm records at an industry-wide level is the bigger prize. It is already happening in the poultry meat and pig sectors, and will be piloted in the cattle sectors next year through AHDB’s electronic Medicine Book system. We look forward to the insight this level of data collection will offer all of UK farming, and the opportunities it will create to build on the significant reductions in antibiotic use already achieved.”

New Secretary General for RUMA in New Year

Former AHDB Director of Knowledge Exchange Chris Lloyd has been announced as the successor to RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald when he retires at the end of this year.

Chris takes over from John in the immediate wake of a significant breakthrough in responsible use of antibiotics in UK farming. This includes a record low in antibiotic sales to the farming industry and the publishing of a set of demanding targets to further reduce, refine or replace antibiotic use over the next three years.

John says he is pleased to have seen such significant progress in his last 18 months at the helm, and is handing over the reins at an exciting time.

“RUMA has transformed from more of an advisory organisation to really driving change across the main livestock sectors in terms of antibiotic use. I’m proud to have been involved at this critical time, and pleased to leave at a point when our farming industry has proved a leader in this antibiotic resistance debate.”

Chris, who succeeds John on 1 January 2018 after a month’s handover, has been immersed in the livestock sector throughout his career. He graduated from Writtle Agricultural College then spent 16 years working for the National Sheep Association holding various positions of influence at a technical and political level across the UK.

In 1999 he was awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship to study the sheep industries of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Chris joined EBLEX in 2003 to deliver firstly the Sheep, then the Beef Better Returns Programme.

He latterly held other positions including Director for Knowledge Exchange across all AHDB sectors and more recently led AHDB activity on AMR across the three livestock sectors (Pork, Dairy and Beef & Lamb) before leaving the levy board in July this year.

Chris says he is looking forward to joining RUMA at time when its work is needed more than ever. “The challenge of AMR and the wider drive for responsible use of all medicines will be ever present for the livestock sectors over the next few years,” he says.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones says John brought a valuable skill set to RUMA, and will be missed. “John’s former senior role at the Veterinary Medicines Directorate means he has a deep knowledge of the technical issues and was known to the key people in the industry.

“He has seen us through a transformative time and left RUMA in an immeasurably stronger position than when he joined six years ago. He will be deeply missed,” says Gwyn.

“However, we are looking forward to Chris joining and bringing a new outlook. The progress achieved over the past two years has been hard won, and the job is to now build on that as our challenges evolve. We have exciting times ahead.”

Response to new report from campaign group Save Our Antibiotics

In response to a new report issued by Save Our Antibiotics entitled ‘Real farming solutions to antibiotic misuse’,  RUMA chair Gwyn Jones said:

“We welcome any contribution to the debate about how we can reduce antibiotic use as part of a One Health approach, and will look closely at the ideas presented in the report.

“However, antibiotic use is not a factor of scale or system of farming, despite efforts to present it as such. Quoting selective evidence does not change this, nor the need for British food and farming to remain competitive, safe and high quality. Treating and preventing disease is also complex; this is why bans can be ineffective with unintended consequences for animal welfare.

“The success in the farming industry achieving a 27% reduction in antibiotic sales over two years and dramatic reductions in highest priority antibiotics is that it has happened with neither bans nor regulation. It has come from a supportive supply chain and regulator – the Veterinary Medicines Directorate – and commitment across the whole RUMA alliance from farm to fork.

“There’s lots more to do – not least improve data collection and sharing, and expand the collaborative, pre-competitive work of the retailers to the wider supply chain. But the fundamental change in focus we are seeing among vets and farmers is down to support and leadership, not sanctions.”


Letter to The Times in response to article on 8 November

To the editor: Contrary to the impression given in the headline “Farmers reject WHO plea…” (8 November), we absolutely support global efforts to curb antibiotics.  UK food and farming has achieved rapid and significant reductions in use of antibiotics to treat and prevent animal disease – in fact a 27% fall in two years. Those of the highest priority to human health now form less than 1% of total use and are subject to clear restrictions by veterinary organisations.

What we cannot endorse are outright bans. The WHO guidelines themselves accept that in the interests of animal welfare, veterinary medicine should retain access to highest priority antibiotics in cases of last resort. And while we do not support routine preventative use of antibiotics, preventative use may occasionally be required – as in humans – before disease is diagnosed, for example after a very difficult birth.

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

RUMA response to publication of new WHO guidelines 7 November

In response to the publication today of the WHO Guidelines on Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals, Gwyn Jones, RUMA chairman, says:

“The guidelines are largely consistent with UK farming’s direction of travel. A clear strategy in the UK has produced rapid reductions of 27% in sales of antibiotics for food-producing animals within two years and significant falls in sales of highest priority antibiotics, meaning a major government target has been exceeded two years early. A new and demanding set of targets for each of the key livestock sectors will ensure momentum continues.

“But the WHO Guidelines also expose some important differences between the global and the European – and specifically the UK – position. For example: antibiotics are controlled by prescription in the UK and use for growth promotion was banned over 10 years ago; UK government and RUMA follow the European Medicines Agency – not WHO – guidelines on CIA definitions because they identify the degree of risk to human health should antimicrobial resistance develop after use in animals; and the UK, with its high regard for animal welfare, observes a ‘One Health’ approach focused on the best outcomes for people, animals, and the environment.

“We know some practices in veterinary medicine, as in human medicine, cannot continue. But we also recognise that time, investment and support are needed to make long-term sustainable changes without harming animal welfare. This means the WHO guidelines, especially based on what the WHO admits is low or very low quality evidence, are neither compatible with the UK farming industry’s priorities, nor necessary given recent progress.”

Industry task force announces new farm antibiotic targets

Immediately following the news that sales of antibiotics to treat and prevent disease in UK farm livestock have achieved a record low following a 27% reduction over the past two years, targets for further reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use across the key livestock sectors have been announced at a London conference today (27 October).

The sector-specific targets were developed over the past year by a ‘Targets Task Force’, facilitated by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance.

The Targets Task Force comprises a leading veterinary surgeon and farmer from each of the beef, dairy, egg, fish, gamebird, pig, poultry meat and sheep sectors, who have been consulting with key organisations in their respective industries. The group also includes observers from regulators Food Standards Agency and Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).

While the targets each sector has set vary according to the availability of data and scope in their sector, the targets as a whole have been described as ‘positive and proactive’ by the VMD.

Furthermore, the regulator has welcomed the voluntary sharing of usage data by the different farm livestock sectors, saying it has been ‘sincerely impressed by the way different sectors have risen, or are rising to the challenge’.

The headline targets for the eight sectors include a reduction in use of antibiotics in pigs by over 60% between 2015 and 2020, with minimal use of highest priority Critically Important Antibiotics (CIAs). Data released earlier in the day indicate a good start has been made, with usage in the pig sector falling by around 35% between 2015 and 2016.

Targets Task Force member and president of the Pig Veterinary Society Mark White said he was pleased such a significant milestone had been reached in the first year of concerted efforts to reduce antibiotic use.

“It’s encouraging to see the response in the sector to the challenge laid down, which bodes well for achieving our ambitious 2020 goal,” he said. “It is evident that the sector – steered mainly by the members of the Pig Veterinary Society, AHDB Pork and the National Pig Association – has the will and the capability to fully engage with the issue.”

Next steps, he said, were to focus on eliminating routine preventative treatment where it is still happening, mainly due to lack of resource or expertise. “We can also work to improve water delivery systems so that more targeted treatment in the water can be used instead of in-feed medication.”

The dairy cattle sector has committed to a 20% reduction by 2020, with a particular focus on halving use of the highest priority CIAs. The work to achieve this will be led by a newly-created Dairy Antimicrobial Stewardship Group (DASG) which includes all key organisations in the sector.

Some of the strategies to achieve these goals in dairy farming include reducing the use of antibiotic dry cow therapy and injectable products, and cutting back on group treatments such as antibiotic footbaths for lameness which remain largely unproven, instead using topical and targeted treatments.

Di Wastenage, dairy farmer from Devon, Task Force member and chair of the DASG, said the sector needed to be ambitious about what it could achieve. “While use is lower than in some sectors, there are clear areas to tackle where use can be habitual, or common disease problems go unchallenged.

“For example, eliminating BVD and Persistently Infected animals from the herd is one of the obvious places to start, as well as talking to your vet to calculate the usage levels you have at the moment. Calf rearing can produce a ‘hot spot’ of treatment, as can digital dermatitis. Everyone has the potential to use antibiotics more responsibly somewhere.”

The gamebird sector, having undergone a comprehensive awareness-raising initiative among game rearers in 2017 to cut back on reducing the need for medicines, aims to reduce use by a quarter this year, with a further 25% reduction between 2018 and 2020.

Three sectors – poultry meat, laying hen and fish – are either already low users of medicines or have made significant reductions over the past five years. These sectors will be focusing on maintaining use at the minimal level needed to ensure good health and welfare among their livestock, while tackling emerging challenges should they arise.

The poultry meat sector, previously described as a ‘pathfinder’ for the rest of the farming industry, has already reduced use by 71% between 2012, when its stewardship scheme was introduced, and 2016.

In doing this, the poultry meat sector has also ceased all preventative treatment and use of the highest priority CIAs. It will now maintain current levels in chickens and look for further reductions in turkeys. This sector will use clinical governance to ensure CIA antibiotics are only prescribed when absolutely needed and with sign off from veterinary specialists and management.

The laying hen and fish sectors have similarly committed to continuing low use, with the laying hen sector eliminating all use of highest priority CIAs in the past two years. The development of a vaccine in the salmon sector several years ago successfully controlled one of its most challenging bacterial diseases, so the focus has turned to the health of the ‘cleaner fish’ used to provide natural control of sea lice.

The trout farming sector, with its greater number of small producers, is concentrating on reducing the need for antibiotics and improving data capture.

The beef and sheep sectors are already low users of antibiotics, but have acknowledged they each need better data, and will also commit to addressing ‘hotspots’ of use. Both have committed to a 10% reduction in antibiotic use by 2020, subject to securing better data.

For the beef sector, reduction in use centres around calves and youngstock, particularly in the areas of respiratory disease. There is also an emphasis on calves from dairy herds, where mixing animals from different sources can create a peak in disease pressure similar to children going to school for the first time.

In sheep, the focus areas are to reduce routine preventative antibiotic usage against abortion (miscarriage), lameness and neonatal lamb diseases such as watery mouth and joint ill.

With initiatives proving that routine preventative use is largely avoidable through a combination of vaccination, good hygiene, quality nutrition and careful shepherding, Dr Fiona Lovatt of the Targets Task Force is optimistic about the opportunities to reduce overall use.

“In the sheep sector, we’re not high users of antibiotics. But we want to ensure that any use is totally targeted so we are challenging all inappropriate or routine preventative use.

“Convincing farmers to change practices is tricky, and none of us want to see an increase in levels of disease, but those who have had the courage to work with their vets to change what they do are now seeing what is possible. The answer is to take a holistic approach and work closely with a keen sheep vet.”

Gwyn Jones, chair of both RUMA and the Targets Task Force, said he has been overwhelmed by the positivity of the group and its willingness to be ambitious. “The members have worked very hard and have shown incredible leadership and persistence. They have also provided unprecedented support and inspiration to each other.

“I am delighted they have agreed that the group should continue to meet twice-yearly to review progress and discuss issues.”

The Targets Task Force was first proposed by RUMA after the O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance was published in May 2016. The group was progressed after Government confirmed an objective to have sector-specific targets in place by the end of 2017.

The full report with starting points and targets for each sector can be downloaded from RUMA Targets Task Force Report 2017 FINAL. The 2016 VARSS report from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, containing sales data and usage reports, can be found on the UK government website.



The Targets Task Force members are:


Hugh Broom, Surrey beef farmer and NFU Livestock Board member

Dr Elizabeth Berry, specialist cattle vet and British Cattle Veterinary Association Council member


Di Wastenage, Devon dairy farmer and Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers Council member

Dr Elizabeth Berry, specialist cattle vet and British Cattle Veterinary Association Council member


Richard Kempsey, free-range egg farmer and Technical Director of Stonegate

Paul McMullin, Consultant Veterinarian to the British Egg Industry Council


Dr John Webster, Technical Director at the Scottish Salmon Producers Association

Ronnie Soutar, specialist fish vet and President of the Fish Veterinary Society


Paul Jeavons, Worcestershire game farmer and Chairman of the Health and Welfare committee of the Game Farmers’ Association

Christian Blake-Dyke, specialist poultry and game bird vet from Poultry Health Services


Richard Lister, Yorkshire pig farmer and Chairman of the National Pig Association

Mark White, President of the Pig Veterinary Society and Chairman of PVS Medicines Sub-committee

Poultry Meat

Thomas Wornham, Hertfordshire poultry producer

Daniel Parker, specialist poultry vet and Veterinary Adviser to the British Poultry Council


Charles Sercombe, Leicestershire sheep farmer and Chair of the NFU Livestock Board

Dr Fiona Lovatt, specialist sheep vet and representative of the Sheep Veterinary Society


Fraser Broadfoot, Veterinary Research Officer, Veterinary Medicines Directorate

Javier Dominguez, Veterinary Director and Head of Science, Evidence and Research, Food Standards Agency

John Fishwick, President, British Veterinary Association

Donal Murphy, Head of Technical and Regulatory Affairs, NOAH

Jess Sloss, Technical Manager, Red Tractor Assurance

Chairing and Organisation

Gwyn Jones, Chair, RUMA (Chair of Targets Task Force)

John FitzGerald, Secretary General, RUMA (Secretary)

Catherine McLaughlin, Vice Chair, RUMA

RUMA welcomes call to action on antibiotics – but underlines UK position on farm animal use

RUMA has welcomed the profile given today (13 October) of a possible “post-antibiotic apocalypse” by England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies. She was speaking at a global ‘Superbugs’ conference held in Berlin.

RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald says: “It’s critical the issue of antibiotic resistance and drug resistant infections is raised at every opportunity. It is a One Health problem that affects all of us – the public, doctors, vets, animal keepers – and we can all play a part in tackling it.

“While we wholeheartedly support the calls for responsible use and oversight of antibiotics globally in both human and agricultural sectors, we want to stress that the situation in the UK is very different, with fewer antibiotics used in farming than in many parts of the world, and no antibiotic growth promotion permitted. All antibiotics must be prescribed by a vet and used only to treat or prevent the spread of disease to maintain the health and welfare of the animal.

“Between 2014 and 2015, sales of antibiotics for farm animals fell 10% and we are expecting further reductions when the sales data from 2016 is released by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate later this month. Furthermore, each livestock sector has been working on setting its own targets for reducing, refining or replacing antibiotics, and these will also be released at the RUMA conference on 27 October.

“We all accept that action in farming is one part of the solution, and are very pleased with the engagement from UK livestock sectors. While there is a moral duty to act, farmers are also realising that we will not have access to any new antibiotics to treat animal disease and safeguard animal welfare – these will all be directed to human medicine. So we have a very strong motivation to protect the efficacy of the antibiotics we do have.”

The RUMA conference is being held on 27 October at the Sainsbury’s Centre in Holborn, London. Limited tickets are still available here.

October conference to announce new farm antibiotics data and targets

The full running order for RUMA’s 2017 conference, to be held on October 27th at the J.Sainsbury’s Conference Centre, Holborn, London, has been released, and will include two major updates of significant importance for the farming industry.

Hosted in association with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), the conference, entitled “Antibiotic Resistance – Facing up to the AMR challenge” is set to include the latest official antibiotic sales data for farm animals, as well as revealing the farming industry’s new sector-specific targets for antibiotic use.

The conference proceedings will open with an address from Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity Lord Gardiner, followed by an update on the new 2016 antibiotic sales data for farm animals, presented by VMD’s head of the Antimicrobial Resistance team Dr Kitty Healey.

Responding to Dr Healey’s presentation will be Professor Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) for Wales, and Professor Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection at Public Health. Professor Glossop, on behalf of all four of the UK’s CVOs, will examine the link between antibiotic use and animal welfare, and Professor Cosford will provide perspectives from a human health angle.

A post-lunch session looking at scientific challenges will introduce members of RUMA’s independent Scientific Group. They will aim to host a robust debate, with audience participation, around the myths and facts concerning antibiotic resistance and farm animals.

One of the key sessions of the day will include the findings from RUMA’s Targets Task Force. Originally proposed in May 2016 after the O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance’s final report was published, the industry-led group has been working to identify meaningful objectives to reduce, refine or replace antibiotic use since the Government’s commitment to agree sector-specific targets by the end of this year was announced. The announcement of the targets will be followed by a discussion and questions to members of the Task Force from Professor Peter Borriello, Chief Executive of the VMD.

The conference will conclude with a summary from the Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens, who will review progress and set a challenge for the next two years.

Tickets for the RUMA conference are now available on Eventbrite and places are limited.


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