RUMA Comment on the Early Day Motion in the House of Commons on the Use of Antibiotics in Intensive Farming

The following early day motion has been laid in the House of Commons:

“That this House recognises that the overuse of antibiotics in intensive farming adds to the serious public health threat from antibiotic resistance and the rise of superbugs; welcomes the Government’s efforts to reduce over-prescribing by doctors; calls for parallel action to reduce the use of antibiotics by veterinary surgeons and farmers; and further calls on the Government to take steps to ensure that the routine prophylactic use of antibiotics on UK farms is phased out and that specific controls are introduced on the use in livestock of antibiotics that are critically important in human medicine.”

Sponsors: Zac Goldsmith (Con, Richmond Park) Peter Bottomley (Con, Worthing West) Martin Caton (Lab, Gower) Adrian Sanders (LD, Torbay) Graham Stringer (Lab, Blackley and Broughton) Stephen Williams (LD, Bristol West)


John FitzGerald, RUMA Secretary General, said “RUMA is disappointed by this EDM which repeats and relies on some of the myths on the use of antibiotics in agriculture and the impact this has on antibiotic resistance in humans.”

Antibiotic resistance is an important one health issue and RUMA supports the initiatives on responsible use in both human and animal medicine. Antibiotics are important for maintaining the health of both humans and animals and it is important that all parties should work together to ensure that antibiotics remain an effective tool in the treatment of humans and animals so that when they need to be used they can be. There is, however, scientific consensus that use of antimicrobials in human medicine rather than antibiotic use in the veterinary sector is the driving force for antibiotic resistant human infections.

RUMA supports the responsible use of all medicines and is concerned that simplistic numerical targets of reduced use can encourage irresponsible use e.g. reduced dosage or time of treatment, which would increase the risk of resistance. RUMA’s responsible use guidelines stress the need for good farm management and disease prevention strategies to minimise the risk of disease but encourage the proper treatment of animals that become ill.

RUMA believes that “prevention is better than cure” and cautions against actions to ban preventive treatment. Antibiotics are used in both human and veterinary medicine to prevent bacterial infections that have occurred in some members of a group or that are likely to occur. RUMA does not consider the delay of treatment until the development of clinical signs of disease is always appropriate. Indeed, allowing people or animals to become ill and then treating them is not considered good practice by RUMA. Such a practice in human medicine would be considered negligent and the same consideration applies to animals at risk as well.

There are many disease scenarios in livestock animals where prophylactic use of antibiotics is an essential part of responsible veterinary care for the protection of animal health and welfare. It must be emphasised that any such preventive and control treatment of animals is always under the control of the prescribing veterinary surgeon who will use diagnostic, clinical and epidemiological (i.e. knowledge of when and where disease is likely to occur) information to inform their prescribing decisions.

RUMA acknowledges that some antibiotics are critically important for human treatments. Although the use of such antibiotics in animals is already small, RUMA encourages vets to use such antibiotics only where there is no alternative treatment available. This is accepted practice by all members of RUMA, including the veterinary profession, as reflected in their respective guidelines on responsible use

Mr FitzGerald said that RUMA would be pleased to meet with any or all of the MPs sponsoring this EDM to discuss their concerns about how antibiotics are used in animals.


  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. A full list of RUMA members is at paragraph 4 below. For further information contact RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald ( or see the RUMA website