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NPA responds to antibiotic claims

6th Jan 2017 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has responded to claims made about antibiotic usage in pigs on Radio 4's Farming Today programme. 

pigs002In an interview carried out at the Oxford Real Farming Conference and broadcast today, Coilin Nunan, from the Alliance to Save Our Antbiotics, singled out the pig sector for criticism.

Mr Nunan, who advises the Soil Association on antibiotics, claimed the main reductions in usage so far had been seen in the poultry industry, while the pig industry had made 'much smaller reductions'.

He described the current level of antibiotic use in pigs as 'very, very high indeed' and much higher than in some of our major EU competitors, such as Denmark and Holland.

He called for a ban on the 'routine preventative use of antibiotics', claiming the pig industry had made 'no commitments towards that'. 

VARSS figures

Recent Government figures on antibiotic sales - not the same as usage but a useful indicator nonetheless - suggested, contrary to these claims, that the pig sector is in fact making significant consistent progress. 

The VARSS report showed sales of products licensed for pigs only were down 24 per cent in 2015, while sales for pigs and poultry were down 10 per cent. Further progress is expected in 2016.

The pig sector has been roundly praised by key Government figures, including former Deputy Chief Vet Simon Hall, for the steps being taken across the sector to reduce and refine usage, underpinned by the NPA's antibiotic stewardship programme.

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: "The entire pig sector is working collectively to address the challenge of reducing and refining antibiotic usage. 

"Producers are being encouraged to record usage to help inform the establishment of long-term targets later this year, while steps are being taken on farms across the country to refine how antibiotics are adminisered.

"There is a major educational drive underway and a real collective determination to make a difference.

"Due to the varied nature of the industry's production systems, there will not be an overnight solution but we are extremely pleased with progress so far and hope to see further progress reflected in the next VARSS report.

"We are not complacent about what still needs to be done but will continue to refute false portrayals of what is happening in the pig sector in the strongest possible terms." 

Forum response

Responding on the NPA forum, NPA Allied Industries Group chairman Hugh Crabtree said Mr Nunan was 'rather behind the curve with respect to what the UK pig industry is doing and has achieved in reducing antibiotic use'.

"If someone like him is as ill-informed as he appeared to be then it clearly highlights the need for the comprehensive action being advocated by the NPA and AHDB Pork," Mr Crabtree said.

To see his full comment, click through to the NPA forum here.