Image credit: Will Merydith (Creative Commons)
From European soils becoming more resistant to antibiotics, to an increase in antibiotic resistant urinary tract infections, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the routine use of medications in farming—so it was good news that the FDA is working to slash antibiotic use. Now an alliance of farming campaign groups is working to tackle the problem from the demand side—calling for a ban on antibiotic advertising to farmers. The newly formed Alliance Against Advertising Antibiotics to Farmers, formed by the Soil Association, Compassion in World Farming, Sustain and the Food Ethics Council, is calling on the British government to issue a ban on advertising antibiotics to farmers on the basis, it says, that the practice undermines the whole principle of subscription-only medicine. By definition, advertising is designed to increase consumption of these medicines—a goal that is directly at odds with attempts to maintain antibiotics as a viable response to pandemic illnesses:
"Advertisements for antibiotics regularly appear in publications like Farmers Weekly, Farmers Guardian, Pig World and Dairy Farmer, as well as on sponsorship material and free calendars. Emotive language and images are often used to convince farmers they should routinely be using the most modern antibiotics available, even though many scientists believe that such drugs should be held in reserve and only used for acute life-saving situations in farm animals, because closely related antibiotics are vitally important for saving lives in human medicine."
In the US, where the airwaves are regularly filled with advertising for prescription medicines for humans, such calls for a ban may seem draconian. But considering that the UK does not allow advertising of prescription medicines for humans, it only makes sense to have a similar ban on marketing for veterinary medicines. After all, decisions on appropriate medication should be made on the basis of recommendations of vets and doctors, not the relative size an advertising budget or the creativity of a marketing department.