Antbiotic progress being made, despite un-Wellcome intervention

It’s coming from all over the place,” observed Tulip’s Andrew Saunders.

He was talking, of course, about the current surge in interest in the use of antibiotics in farming, a point reinforced by coverage of the subject across the pages of this month’s Pig World.

There is no avoiding the subject, which, over the past few weeks, has spawned two distinct narratives as far as antibiotics and pigs are concerned.
One is the real story, where Government and the entire industry – farmers, vets, feed companies, processors and more – are seeking common ground and very real progress is being made. The 2015 sales data showed a welcome decline across the board, with the pig sector seemingly leading the way.

But sales data is not the same as usage data, which is why there is a renewed drive to increase the volume of data loaded onto the eMB-Pigs database.
There are clear signs, too, of moves throughout the supply chain to use antibiotics more responsibly.

With Government seemingly appreciating the efforts being taken, we can look forward, hopefully, to targets being set next year that will be challenging – but fair and proportionate.

Then there is the alternative narrative being pedalled – one that threatens to cause genuine damage to our industry.
It depicts a world where farmers and vets are creating killer superbugs through drug abuse on farms to cover up lazy management as pigs are reared in squalid, cramped factories that literally breed disease.

Even the highly-respected Wellcome Trust was at it during November’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week, publishing an outrageously misleading video, suggesting you will find more antibiotics in supermarket meat than a pharmacy.

A Twitter backlash highlighting the video’s inaccuracies and ‘scandalous propaganda’ and a letter from RUMA, forensically tearing it apart and calling for it to be removed went unheeded.

All-too-often, we are seeing unremarkable facts, such as the discovery of LA-MRSA in supermarket pork, being wilfully distorted by some and misunderstood by others.
It leaves the industry with two antibiotic challenges. One is continuing to record, reduce and refine antibiotic usage. The other is to ensure the real antibiotic story is heard above its distorted and misleading rival before lasting damage is done.

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.