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Game industry cuts antibiotic use

New figures show antibiotics used in game bird rearing have been cut by 36 per cent voluntarily, well ahead of the 25 per cent target

Braced up pheasants

Hanging shot birds on a gate or rail for collection is better than putting them in the back of a truck

Reduction in antibiotics in meat from game

Shooting and game bird organisations have welcomed 
a big fall in the number of antibiotics used in the rearing of pheasants and partridges in the UK.

Figures endorsed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) were released in October 2017, showing that antibiotics used in game bird rearing were brought down voluntarily by 36 per cent in 2017 compared with 2016, including a 53 per cent reduction for those administered in game bird food.

The 36 per cent fall comfortably exceeds the 25 per cent official reduction target for game birds in 2017, developed by the game bird sector and agreed by the VMD earlier this year. The actual reduction was calculated from veterinary records. Vets are responsible for prescribing all antibiotics given to game birds.

Global concerns about antibiotic use

All livestock sectors have been asked by the Government to reduce their use of antibiotics in meat production in the face of global concerns about antimicrobial resistance.

A spokesman for the shooting and game bird management organisations commented: “These large reductions have been achieved voluntarily and in just one year through the hard work of game farmers, gamekeepers, the veterinary profession and the game feed trade. We welcome today’s results as an excellent 
start to our continuing campaign for antibiotic reduction.”

Professor Peter Borriello, 
chief executive of the VMD, said: “The significant reductions achieved in 2017, the same year that the sector started to collect and scrutinise its antibiotic usage data, highlight the strong commitment of the game bird industry to bring down antibiotic use. The reductions achieved in 2017 are to be highly commended, and are an encouragement to all 
to continue the good work.”

John Fitzgerald, general secretary of RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance), added: “We congratulate our colleagues in the game sector on their excellent 2017 antibiotic reduction results. The enthusiasm and commitment with which the whole sector has engaged with 
this process is exemplary.”

Antibiotics are used in game bird rearing, as in other livestock sectors, to treat natural diseases. Their use is sometimes essential for welfare reasons but administration of antibiotics can be reduced through good biosecurity and correct management.