Catherine (Cat) McLaughlin has been elected new chair of RUMA, the UK agriculture and food industry alliance which promotes responsible use of medicines in farm animals. Formerly deputy chair of the organisation, she takes over the reins from Gwyn Jones at the end of his final term in the role, with Dawn Howard appointed as new deputy chair.
The elections took place at RUMA’s annual general meeting in London on 4 March. Ms McLaughlin, who is also chief animal health and welfare adviser with the NFU and a director of AMTRA (Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority), said she was stepping into the chair’s position at a time of emerging challenges.
She said: “Over the past six years, the UK livestock industry has secured remarkable progress in voluntarily improving antibiotic stewardship, halving use to achieve some of the lowest sales in Europe both overall and of highest-priority Critically Important Antibiotics.
“However, there’s more to do. New challenges are emerging all the time – including resistance to other medicines such as anthelmintics, novel scientific research that will inform changes in practices, and rapidly-evolving political, climatic and social environments.
“Steering the livestock sectors through this will continue to be RUMA’s remit. I look forward to bringing my knowledge and experience – alongside that of my new deputy chair Dawn, the members of the RUMA board and the Independent Scientific Group – to help the livestock industries face these challenges.”
Ms McLaughlin also paid tribute to “transformational” leadership of Gwyn Jones over the past six years, which has helped the UK take a global leadership position in voluntary stewardship of antibiotics in agriculture.
“I’m pleased to announce it was agreed to co-opt Gwyn to the RUMA board for a handover period, to help the delivery of a number of projects including the announcement of new antibiotic use targets 2021-2024 and discussions with the newly-formed Food Industry Initiative on Antimicrobials (FIIA). We’re delighted to be retaining his expertise during this period,” added Ms McLaughlin.
New deputy chair Dawn Howard, who is chief executive of NOAH, said she was honoured to take on the role and looked forward to working with Ms McLaughlin and other new colleagues at RUMA.
“My ambition is that we continue to deliver and build on our success in raising the standards of responsible use of medicines for the benefit of farm animals in the UK,” said Ms Howard.
“I hope my extensive international contacts in the field of animal health will build new relationships and allow us to learn from good practice globally, as well as use our experiences in RUMA to support other countries in making the changes needed.”
Ms Howard, who holds a diploma with the Institute of Directors, was formerly director of the Princes Rural Action Programme and the European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders. Before that she was assistant director of the British Agriculture Bureau in Brussels, and senior policy advisor with Defra in the areas of animal health and welfare, pesticides and plant health, having completed a botany degree at University of Nottingham.
Ms McLaughlin’s previous roles have included Scottish extension officer for the Milk Development Council and market information manager of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS)/Meat and Livestock Commission (Scotland). She is an agricultural graduate of the University of Aberdeen and also holds a postgraduate diploma in Farm Business Organisational Management from SRUC.
Since 2014, the UK livestock farming industry has reduced use of antibiotics by 53% and is currently working on reaching a number of sector-specific targets for reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use by the end of 2020. A new set of targets post-2020 will be released by the end of the year.