A tiger kept in a small cage

New EU Rules Come into Force Which Restrict the Use of Veterinary Antimicrobials

FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, publishes guidance document to support governments in complying with the new regulations.


3 January 2022 – On 28 January 2022, rules restricting the use of veterinary antimicrobials began to be applied across the European Union (EU). This will outlaw the routine use of antibiotics and limit preventative use to exceptional treatments of individual animals.

Intensive farming is reliant on the routine use of antibiotics which are often administered to groups of animals in their feed or water, even if many of the animals show no signs of sickness. Stressed animals are kept in unhygienic and cramped conditions without fresh air and sunlight, the same precursors to zoonotic outbreaks that can cause pandemics. Antibiotics are also administered to curtail illnesses in animals stemming from cruel practices such as early weaning.

The Veterinary Medicinal Products Regulation imposes new restrictions for the use of antibiotics in the farming sector and prohibits antibiotic use for the purpose of compensating for poor hygiene, inadequate animal husbandry, lack of care, or poor farm management.

Accounting for 70 percent of global use, the inappropriate use of antibiotics by the livestock industry is driving the global health crisis of Antimicrobial Resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has a direct impact on human and animal health. It is estimated that AMR is responsible for approximately 33,000 deaths per year in the EU and costs the EU Member States €1.5 billion per year in healthcare costs and productivity losses.

FOUR PAWS, together with veterinary and legal experts, has created a guidance document to support decision-makers in implementing the necessary measures for improving animal welfare on European farms in order to reduce the use of antibiotics, tackle AMR, and align with the new EU regulations. One element worth keeping in mind is that all efforts put into improving husbandry build towards preparing for the revision of the animal welfare legislation announced by the European Commission.

“A significant reduction in the unnecessary use of antibiotics in agriculture is long overdue. For too long, they have propped up an unsustainable system that only aims to get animals to slaughter as quickly as possible and start the process all over again. We need to address the root causes that make antibiotic treatments necessary: the husbandry conditions of animals and our demand for cheap meat.

Implementing higher welfare measures, such as rearing slower growing, traditional breeds, will help farmers ensure their animals are in good health with stronger immune systems, making them less prone to infections that require antibiotic treatment. At the same time, transitioning to high animal welfare farming can only happen along with a transition to predominantly plant-based diets that lift the pressure of intensive agriculture off our environment and are critical for mitigating the climate crisis. In the end, to safeguard human health, we need to rethink and remedy the relationship between humans, animals, and the environment.”

Sophie Aylmer, Head of Policy for Farm Animals and Nutrition for FOUR PAWS

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org

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