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09 January 2013 by Zac Goldsmith

Zac Goldsmith: Drug use on Factory farms must be curtailed




Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, has challenged the Government to take urgent action to tackle the excessive use of antibiotics on intensive farms.


Sir Liam Donaldson, former Chief Medical Officer, warned in his annual report in 2009, that the ‘Every inappropriate or unnecessary use on animals or agriculture is potentially signing a death warrant for a future patient’, yet the Government’s antibiotic resistance strategy is solely focused on over-prescribing by doctors with no mention at all of their use on factory farms.


In a Parliamentary debate with Health Minister Anna Soubry on Wednesday, January 9th,  Zac Goldsmith warned that, “If we continue to turn a blind eye to the risks of over-using antibiotics, for fear of upsetting vested interest, our Government will be complicit in robbing future generations of one of the great discoveries of our species and propelling us into a truly frightening, post-antibiotic age.”


The inappropriate use of antibiotics on farms leads to thedevelopment of resistance amongst farm animals which can, and does, pass to humans, leading to a rise in a number of serious infections in humans such as Campylobacter, MRSA, or blood poisoning from E. coli - cases of which have increased by nearly 400% in the past 20 years.




Some antibiotics have already been lost to resistance, for example penicillin for (staphylococcal) wound infections, ampicillin for infections of the urinary tract and ciprofloxacin for treating gonorrhoea.  A recent analysis by Soil Association of the Government’s own statistics indicates that the overall use of antibiotics per animal on UK farms increased by 18% between 2000 and 2010.


The Minister committed in the debate to reviewing the science around the issue, in particular the reviews cited by Zac Goldsmith in his speech, and to respond in writing to the specific questions raised.



Notes to Editors


1. For a Hansard transcript of the debate, please follow this LINK


2. LINK to Early day motion 566 ‘Use of Antibiotics in Intensive Farming'. 

Primary sponsor: Goldsmith, Zac

That this House recognises that the overuse of antibiotics in intensive farming adds to the serious public health threat from antibiotic resistance and the rise of superbugs; welcomes the Government's efforts to reduce over-prescribing by doctors; calls for parallel action to reduce the use of antibiotics by veterinary surgeons and farmers; and further calls on the Government to take steps to ensure that the routine prophylactic use of antibiotics on UK farms is phased out and that specific controls are introduced on the use in livestock of antibiotics that are critically important in human medicine.


3. LINK: When MPs ask the big lobby groups to write their policy for them.