A Lamb being injected with antibiotics © Tim ScrivenerA lamb being injected with antibiotics © Tim Scrivener

British consumers are concerned about on-farm antibiotic use, but are seemingly unaware of efforts by livestock farmers to reduce reliance, a survey has found.

The Europe-wide study, commissioned by the International Federation for Animal Health Europe, saw 6,000 consumers across the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain answer questions on veterinary medicine use.

See also: Farmers told to cut antibiotic use by one-fifth

Last week at The Farmers Club in London, the National Office of Animal Health (UK) – an IFAH-Europe member – presented the UK results.

It revealed that of the 1,000 British consumers surveyed, 54% were concerned about the levels of antibiotics given to farm animals.

Antibiotic resistance

Another 61% said they were also concerned about antibiotic resistance from farm animals being passed to humans.

However, only 51% were aware that the use of antibiotics in farm animals is regulated and controlled by a national authority – lower than 55% across the six EU countries surveyed.

A further 55% were also unaware that UK farmers implement alternative measures and tools to reduce the use of antibiotics in farm animals.

Lack of information

“With global concern about antibiotic resistance, it is perhaps not surprising to see this raised among the public,” said Dawn Howard, chief executive of NOAH.

“But even so, the science is very clear – the use of antibiotics in people is the main driver of resistance developing in the human population, not the use in British livestock.

“Looking at the use of antibiotics in farm animals, it was clear that many people are uncertain and have a lack of accurate information regarding their use. People believe that alternatives – for example, better hygiene management and regular vaccinations – can reduce the use of antibiotics.

However, 55% of British people don’t know that farmers implement alternative measures to reduce antibiotic use,” she said.

Other UK survey findings:

• 74% are aware farm animals are vaccinated to prevent them becoming sick – higher than 71% across the six surveyed countries
• 61% are aware animal medicines are tested and reviewed before being allowed to be sold – only 1% less than 62% across Europe.
• Only 53% of those surveyed in the UK were aware the prescription and sale of animal medicines is strictly regulated – more than the 48% across Europe
• 57% are concerned about residues from animal medicines getting into food
• 45% believe livestock are still given antibiotics to make them grow faster, even their use as a growth promoter is banned in Europe