What’s Noah’s agenda on vaccinations?

The National Office for Animal Health (Noah) appears to have a problem with livestock vaccines, which is odd given that the organisation is a lobbying body funded by animal health companies, writes Pig World editor Graeme Kirk.

At a press conference in London last week, Noah’s chief executive, Dawn Howard, spoke about three myths related to the health and welfare of animals that showed, she said, consumers were more confused about animal medicines than ever.

One of these myths was: “81% [of shoppers]believe that it is possible that vaccinations could cause harm to people by getting into food – up from 72% in 2012″.

It’s right that Noah should call this a myth because it’s one of the organisations own making. In fact, the question that was actually put to the 1,007 shoppers that polling firm IGD ShopperVista spoke to was whether they thought “medicines including vaccinations cause harm to people by getting into the food we eat”.

And in a era of spin where you’d expect lobbyists to put a positive gloss on things, the published results of the research actually show that only 38% of respondents agreed with the statement, the other 43% that make up the headline 81% figure were those that neither agreed or disagreed with the statement, or didn’t know!

I did ask if there was anything in the research that suggested the shoppers questioned were more concerned about vaccines than other medicines to justify Noah’s position, but apparently there wasn’t.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s more to this than just semantics. Noah has turned a question about “medicines including vaccinations” into one about “vaccinations” alone.

And as well as including it in a press release that many publications have published verbatim, it’s also in the organisation’s Animal Health Manifesto, produced just in time for the General Election, as an example of the widespread misunderstanding of how animal medicines are used.

Could the organisation be trying to deflect attention from other medicines, and antibiotics in particular?

I was surprised to see Noah also describe the finding that “81% [this time 35% agreed and 46% were neither agree or disagree, or don’t know]believe that the use of antibiotics in livestock makes them less effective for people – up from 76% in 2012″ as another myth.

The Noah position is that while it acknowledges that regulators are looking closely at the use of antimicrobials in animals, there is no evidence that there is any link between that and antibiotic resistance in humans.

It’s interesting to note, however, that in its manifesto this position shifts subtly to: “Research shows that responsible use of antibiotics in livestock farming is not affecting how effective they are in humans”.

Maybe it’s just semantics again, but that suggests to me that irresponsible use – were it ever to occur – could be a problem, and that’s another myth with more than a little basis in fact.

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