RUMA promotes ‘as little as possible, but as much as necessary’ Antibiotic use, for the good of Animal Health and Welfare

Veterinarians need the full range of antibiotics to help protect the health and welfare of Britain’s farm animals, and to help ensure the safety of food derived from those animals.

RUMA welcomes the call by the Chief Medical Officer for the responsible use of antibiotics in both humans and animals – something the Alliance has being promoting through vets and their farmer clients since its establishment over 10 years ago. However, RUMA feels suggestions that certain groups of antibiotics – cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones – should be taken away from veterinary use is short sighted. It would be counterproductive and detrimental to animal – and ultimately human – health and welfare.

RUMA director Tony Andrews said: “The 2007 veterinary antibiotic usage figures, published by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate in July 2008, show that RUMA’s work to reduce the need to use antibiotics seems to be having an effect. RUMA actively encourages and supports the responsible use of antibiotics in animals. The Alliance has drafted species-specific guidelines on best practice for the use of antibiotics. The detailed guidelines for use by vets in conjunction with farmers are based on the philosophy that antimicrobials are chosen and used based on diagnosis and known sensitivities of the micro-organisms involved. The usage of cephalosporins and quinolones is very small compared with that of the more traditional antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracyclines – but they have their role to play when they are shown to be the right choice by investigation into a specific disease situation.

“The RUMA guidelines, both the series on antimicrobials and the more recently issued advice on vaccines and vaccination, emphasise measures to prevent the need for treatments of any kind. These measures could relate to housing or nutrition, for example, as well as medicines,” he added. The guidelines are available on the RUMA website

RUMA fully supports the use of antimicrobials where they are needed. Antimicrobials are vital to the health of farm livestock and are only administered under the prescription of a veterinary surgeon.

RUMA promotes positive farm health planning, with farmers and vets working together, to ensure the health of the animals on farm. RUMA fully supports DEFRA’s technical and scientific investigations and research into this issue and believes that antimicrobials should be used as little as possible, but as much as necessary.

“The comments made by the Chief Medical Officer should be taken to heart by all to help reinforce the view that these valuable treatments should only be used when there are no alternatives and where there has been suitable investigation to confirm their appropriate use,” added Dr Andrews.


  1. For further information contact Dr Tony Andrews at RUMA on 01438717900, or email
  2. RUMA (The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance) was set up in November 1997 to promote the highest standards of food safety, animal health and animal welfare in British livestock farming. It launched the original cattle guidelines in June 2000. Since that time the guidelines have been used as part of farm assurance schemes. There are also RUMA guidelines for the responsible use of antimicrobials in cattle, pigs, poultry, sheep and fish. See for more information.
  3. RUMA is a non governmental non profit making organisation which includes members at all stages of food production chain. Amongst its aims is “To establish and communicate guidelines which describe “best practice” in the use of medicines.”
  4. RUMA’s members are:
    • Agricultural Industries Confederation
    • Animal Health Distributors Association
    • Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority
    • BPEX and EBLEX
    • British Egg Industry Council
    • British Poultry Council
    • British Retail Consortium
    • British Veterinary Association
    • City and Guilds
    • DairyCo
    • Dairy UK
    • Game Farmers’ Association
    • LEAF
    • National Beef Association
    • National Farmers’ Union
    • National Office of Animal Health
    • National Pig Association
    • National Sheep Association
    • NFU Scotland
    • Red Tractor Assurance
    • Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers
    • RSPCA
    • Royal Pharmaceutical Society


    • Food Standards Agency
    • Veterinary Medicines Directorate