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Perspectives Newsletter Issue 27

Brussels, 18 July 2023

The animal, plant and control package which includes the proposed Animal Health Law text was well-received in May. At the Copa-Cogeca and DG Sanco conferences, we welcomed the draft text as a means of advancing the Commission’s agenda in terms of the surveillance of antibiotic resistance amongst animals.

By monitoring resistance patterns in pathogens, we can provide an early warning system whereby action can be taken by veterinarians to manage the use of antibiotics to minimise resistance development. Animal pathogens, the diseases that reduce output by 20% at an annual cost of €28 billion in the EU, can be controlled by a series of measures including bio-security, good housing, good nutrition, vaccination programmes along with herd health plans. Despite all these measures, losses run at 20% and we do not want antibiotic resistance to frustrate our efforts to control disease.

We also welcome the proposal for mechanisms to optimise the use of vaccine banks in the draft Animal Health Law. These are strategic reserves to fight diseases such as foot and mouth disease (FMD). The 2001 FMD outbreak in the UK cost €3.5 billion. A small investment in a vaccine bank could avoid such losses in the future.

The mixing of science, ethics, societal values and economic interests is the subject of on-going debate in many fora. There should be a clear separation between science and ethical choices, societal values and economic interests. This is especially true in relation to the work of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA was established to deliver scientific opinions and assessments. It is perfectly acceptable and indeed to be encouraged that stakeholders engage in debate with EFSA if the scientific assessment does not reflect the consensus in published literature. 

However, the scientific output should not be criticised as stakeholders pursue ethical or societal values or economic interests. Whilst these are perfectly valid views, policy makers, politicians and stakeholders should clearly state that their position is based on a specific interest as opposed to criticising the science. If the science is incorrectly criticised, EFSA’s reputation is damaged and we have defeated the very purpose of establishing the agency which is to restore and maintain confidence in the EU food chain.

Turning to a more seasonal matter, remember to take care of your companion animals especially as the temperatures rise. Cars can be very hot on sunny days and a source of drinking water should be provided. If you are travelling across borders with your pet, remember to consult your vet to ensure that all is in order – this will avoid disruption in your travel but most importantly, will protect the health of your pet.       

Kind Regards,

Declan O’Brien
Managing Director

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