BVA concerned at calls for sick animals to be slaughtered

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has questioned remarks made by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dame Sally Davies that sick animals should be slaughtered rather than treated, and has asked for clarification on the issue.

The calls for potential treatment to be ditched in favour of slaughter form part of a strategy to reduce antibiotic resistance in humans.

According to the Daily Mail, at the recent Cambridge Science Festival, Davies called for a reduction in the use of antibiotics in farm animals and said she had urged veterinary surgeons to slaughter badly infected animals rather than treat them.

Robin Hargreaves, president, BVA, said: “To suggest that treatable animals should be slaughtered makes no sense in terms of animal health, public health or the rural economy.
“As veterinary surgeons our first duty is to the animals under our care, and that means providing the most appropriate treatment. Badly infected animals may need to be slaughtered for their own good or for the good of the herd or flock. But those that have a good chance of recovery and the opportunity to be productive should be treated with the appropriate antibiotics used responsibly.”

He said it was unclear how such a strategy would be deployed, and whether it would extend to pet animals as well as farm animals.

“We are seeking clarification of the CMO’s comments to ensure the debate is based on facts. We know that the biggest cause of antibiotic resistance in humans is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human medicine – and this is highlighted in the joint report on resistance from the Department of Health and Defra.

“However, we are not complacent about the role of antibiotics use in veterinary medicine and we are one of the leading voices in the campaign for the responsible use of antibiotics in all species.

“Antibiotic resistance is a significant threat to animal and human health, but the debate must be based on a sound assessment of the risks involved and sensible solutions.”

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