Funding for antibiotic action tripled as part of five-year plan
Published:  11 January, 2017

Funding for the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance has more than tripled as part of a new five-year plan which will help UK farming reduce antibiotic use across animal and human medicine. 

RUMA’s strategic objectives for the next five years are the prevention of disease and illness – based on the adoption of sound biosecurity, good feed and water, vaccination, pen-side diagnostics and proactive, meaningful health planning, taking appropriate curative action – based on updated and strengthened RUMA guidelines, including guidance on circumstances in which critically important antibiotics (CIAs) can be used in order to restrict use to absolute necessity.

It hopes to reduce usage by setting species sector-specific goals, which also meet government targets and societal expectations. RUMA’s other goals include leading on the comprehensive collection and publication of antibiotic usage data, as well as surveillance and monitoring regimes, and creating a positive environment for progress – ensuring stakeholders understand what the industry is achieving and that any spurious or negative coverage is handled appropriately to minimise disruption to progress.

It hopes to accomplish this by challenging and supporting the industry to use medicines responsibly, including reducing, refining and replacing current use of antibiotics; sustaining activities and creating a change in culture around accountability and responsible use; increasing the clarity and consistency of messages and information so key stakeholders and the public are clear about progress, issues, and what is being done; and maintaining a strong prioritisation on science and animal health.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones has welcomed the funding rise, which will take the form of increased subscriptions from RUMA members. He said it was “indicative of the industry’s deepening commitment to work alongside the human medical community in reducing, refining and replacing use of antibiotics globally”.

“RUMA’s new five-year plan is focused on leadership, supporting and co-ordinating sector-led reductions in the use of antibiotics, inspiring greater levels of responsible use among farmers, and increasing awareness among policy-makers and the general public of the facts, as well as challenges and achievements,” said Jones.

“While stewarding use of antibiotics in human medicine to reduce the risk from resistant bacteria is a pressing priority, farming has an important role to play in reducing the risk of resistance developing through the food chain.”

Jones added that the biggest challenge facing farming was how to reduce animal treatment with antibiotics without compromising welfare. “A well thought-out, science-based approach that improves natural immunity, reduces disease burden and finds different ways to manage infection is essential to protect the well-being of animals. There is no silver bullet – it’s about small incremental changes that are carefully tried and tested before implementation.”

RUMA has also recently welcomed the British Meat Processors’ Association and the British Trout Association as members, meaning it now spans all sectors from game to poultry, fish, cattle, sheep and pigs, and all levels of the supply chain, from organisations that supply farmers through to retailers.

“The commitment to achieving change in how antibiotics are used is now universal throughout food and farming,” said Jones. “While not every member will agree on every aspect, they all recognise the importance of collaboration and UK farming’s potential contribution in helping to address this worldwide human and animal health issue.”