Tag Archives: Food and Rural Affairs

UK Antimicrobial Resistance Summit

Tuesday 18th November was European Antibiotics Awareness Day and the VPRF went along to participate in the UK Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Summit organised by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. The event was hosted at Nobel House by Professor the Lord Trees of the Ross, Member of the House of Lords, Nigel Gibbens, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer and Professor Peter Borriello, CEO, Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

EAAD_abx_infographic_2The aim of the meeting was to bring together livestock production industry leaders and animal health representatives from the relevant Government departments and make a unified move from raising awareness to action at a national level.

As part of the cross-Government 5 year AMR strategy substantial outcomes are expected from both the public and animal health sides. However, whilst the Department of Health and Public Health England have the single, public sector NHS to deliver their outcomes, DEFRA and the VMD have multiple different private industry sectors with different issues related to antibiotic use.

EAAD_abx_infographicGeorge Eustice MP (Defra Minister for farming, food and marine environment) and Dr Felicity Harvey ( Director General for Public Health, Department of Health) both spoke at the event to give a sense of the current position of their departments. Prof Borriello spoke on behalf of the VMD.  This was followed by the perspective from industry, with updates from the pig, poultry and dairy sectors, all of whom are at startlingly different stages in their understanding and reduction of antibiotic use.

After lunch there was a round table discussion to consider what had been heard that morning. The main conclusion was that before action can be taken accurate and appropriate data needs to be gathered in one place for in depth analysis. For example, currently it isn’t possible to separate data on sales of pig and poultry antimicrobials into which were used for pigs and which for poultry. Furthermore, sales are not representative of use. There is much work to be done.

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Westminster Hall debates

Tuesday 4th November saw two interesting debates in Westminster Hall. In the morning Neil Parish MP moved a debate on Animal Slaughter (Religious Methods), and in the afternoon Chris Williamson MP moved a debate on Badger Culls (Assessment). I will focus on the animal slaughter side of things in this post.

Animal Slaughter (Religious Methods)

The animal slaughter debate was called following the publication of the APPG for Beef and Lamb’s inquiry into the welfare of animals slaughtered in accordance with religious rites. This report identified several areas in need of further research. During the course of the debate a number of matters were discussed, including the role of exporters subject to various conditions on slaughter, the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses, the effect of animal stress on meat quality, the labelling of meat (stunned vs non-stunned) and a call to accurately record all mis-stuns and mis-cuts. A lot of well-trodden ground was once again re-covered during this debate and ultimately it boils down to the question: Does the right to freedom of religious expression outweigh animal welfare considerations?

Government response

During his response, George Eustice MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

“Our position is that we would prefer that all animals are stunned before slaughter, but we recognise and respect the needs of religious communities, so we have always maintained this limited exemption, which is to be used only for meat produced for Jewish and Muslim communities. Last year, the Prime Minister made it very clear in a speech that the Government have no intention of abolishing religious slaughter in this country. However, it is equally important to note that none of the derogations that we have in place, which are set out through the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995, exempt anyone from the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which requires all abattoirs to avoid causing an animal avoidable pain.”

“It is not that we believe that there is no difference between the two types of slaughter, nor that we believe shechita is a more welfare-friendly method of slaughter, but because we respect the rights of religious communities. That has been the long-standing position of every UK Government, going back some 100 years.”

HOC Hansard, 4th Nov 2014, Column 168WH.

Labelling

The Minister’s round up also included (another) new date for the publication of the European Commission report on labelling – now expected to conclude in December 2014.

Mis-stunning and mis-cutting

He briefly covered the issue of mis-stunning and -cutting. Historically, the Food Standards Agency only reported incidents observed by official veterinarians in the slaughterhouse. Following review, the FSA intends to monitor and record all incidents. He reiterated the point that a mis-stunning event does not always mean the welfare outcome for a particular animal will be dire as a second, back-up stun can be applied within seconds.

CCTV in slaughterhouses

Last, but not least, the subject of CCTV in slaughterhouses is an issue. The Minister clarified that the Farm Animal Welfare Committee is reviewing it as an option. The issue remains as to exactly who would monitor the CCTV footage were it made compulsory in slaughterhouses. Several supermarkets already demand that CCTV is taken in their slaughterhouses as a matter of course – perhaps the success/failure of this intervention could be investigated.

Badger Culls (Assessment)