Brexit threatens ‘bold but essential’ EU rules prohibiting use of antibiotics in farming, warns MEP

Molly has warmly welcomed new EU regulations on prohibiting the use of antibiotics in farming, aimed at improving human and animal health and welfare. However, she has warned that Brexit threatens to sacrifice the new rules ‘at the altar of trade’.

The new rules agreed on Tuesday evening are part of an on-going battle against antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is responsible for an estimated  25,000 deaths a year in the EU. The rules include prohibiting the use of antibiotics in feed as a preventative measure; limiting the prescription for antibiotics in medicated feed to two weeks and only allowing vets to prescribe antibiotics after a full clinical examination. The result will be significantly restricted prescription, storage and administration of antibiotics in animal farming across the EU.

Molly, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agricultural Committee, welcomed the new rules:

“The EU has adopted some bold but essential measures to tackle antimicrobial resistance, one of the greatest threats to public health the world faces. The routine use of antibiotics in farming has been identified as a leading cause of AMR and with 91% of European antibiotics administered to farmed animals through their feed and drinking water, the new rules are a monumental step in the right direction.

“The measures could change the face of farming across the EU. Antibiotics are a key component to intensive farming. When animals are kept tightly packed together in squalid conditions they are inevitably more susceptible to disease. This necessitates constant medication with antibiotics to keep disease at bay. 

“The new rules place an increased emphasis on good animal husbandry practices to keep farmed animals healthy, as opposed to an overdependence on medication.”

However, she warns that Brexit threatens to scupper these positive changes in the UK. She points to the fact that the US considers a “key hindrance” to transatlantic trade the EU’s longstanding resistance to imports of US agricultural goods and genetically modified foods. The use of antibiotics in farming in the US is at least 5 times higher than in the UK and millions of farmed animal die each year before slaughter due to disease. Molly Scott Cato warns:

“The vultures from Washington are swooping in, and Liam Fox is already sacrificing standards pre-emptively at the altar of trade. Even if we do maintain hard won EU rules on animal health and welfare after Brexit, British meat and poultry farmers would have no hope of competing with products produced significantly more cheaply under intensive models elsewhere.

“The UK has a stark choice: will it maintain the highest standards of animal welfare and protect human health, or will it sacrifice these standards for the sake of a US trade deal?”