Antibiotic prescriptions in Dutch livestock farming went down by 12 percent last year, reported the veterinary medicine producer organization Fidin. Is that good enough? Tjeerd Kimman, researcher coordinator at the Central Veterinary Institute, part of Wageningen UR:
I hope this is the start to breaking the mould, though. The livestock sector needs to work towards a comprehensive solution. That means that farmers must improve the quality of the animals, their feed and their shelter, as well as systematically taking microbiology into account. It boils down to creating an environment in which antibiotics are no longer necessary. That is possible - there are farmers who are already successfully producing antibiotic-free chickens and pigs. They are motivated people who make real progress, but they run into problems too. You have to support this group with research and advice.
Together with the faculty of veterinary medicine and the Animal Health Service, we made suggestions last year as to how you can systematically reduce antibiotic use. What you need is a broad package. For example, you need genetics in order to breed animals with greater resistance to diseases, and you need more vaccines against viruses and bacteria. The point is, this research takes time, while the livestock sector is expected to produced results in the short term. The previous minister, Verburg, agreed with the sector on a target of halving antibiotic use. I am very worried about whether we will make that. And about whether it is enough. The tendency up to now has been for antibiotic resistance to spread through the food chain. In the worst case scenario, you will get the equivalent of the Q fever situation: too little too late.'