Animal medicines contributing to animal welfare

Animal medicines and vaccines contribute significantly to the health and well-being of both farm and companion animals. These medicines are developed to ensure good health in all husbandry systems, with an eye to future developments in livestock farming.

IFAH-Europe members take note of public opinion and place great emphasis on the need for a scientific background to political and legal decisions on farming methods, as well as matters relating to animal medicine licensing and use. The animal health industry is committed to actively contribute to solve animal health issues and support the well being of our farm animals. Industry is an active partner in the food chain, and works towards the improvement of farm animal welfare.

Modern improvements in every sector of the food chain, such as farming techniques, medicine development and processing, must be used to support a sustainable approach to agriculture, making it possible to use our current resources today to the best advantage without threatening their future availability.

Prevention of disease

Improved sanitary conditions, vaccination strategies, and adequate management are the cornerstones for the comprehensive animal health programmes to control serious infectious diseases which threaten animals and adversely affect production costs. Intensive collaboration between veterinarians and producers in setting up effective animal health programmes on farms is a must to achieve the highest level of animal health and well-being and to protect the consumer.

Salmonella control is a good example. The sustained fall in levels of Salmonella in eggs in the UK after introducing widespread vaccination of egg laying flocks against Salmonella enteritidis, combined with improved flock hygiene measures, is an excellent example of this integrated approach. Currently more than 80% of UK eggs are produced under the industry’s voluntary comprehensive programme incorporating the highest standards of food safety.

In the past, in order to control highly infectious diseases such as swine fever or foot and mouth disease, hundreds of thousands of animals were required to be culled. Modern technologies such as biotechnology can open up the possibility for vaccination to be used as an alternative method. For example, infected and vaccinated animals can now be differentiated from those who have been naturally infected by using a marker vaccine. Armed with this exciting new technology, IFAH-Europe members worked with policy makers to change prevention policy in the European Union in order to stop the policies involving the mass culling of healthy animals.

A successful example of the marker vaccine approach already in action has been the prevention and control of Aujeszky’s disease in pigs in Europe, which has been using this approach since the early 1990’s.

Treatment of disease

Despite of all preventive measures, animals will still get sick and need to be treated. Animal medicines for livestock not only protect consumers from harmful food borne pathogens or zoonotic agents; they also improve the health status and well being of the animal and therefore the quality of the animal products themselves.

Responsible use

Animal medicines must be used in a responsible manner. Consumers should be assured that medicine is only used when necessary, in a foreseen manner and without leaving harmful residues in the food. Veterinary medicines only reach the market place after they have been thoroughly tested and the efficacy, safety and quality of the products clearly demonstrated.

The in-depth, well-defined independent scientific assessment in the registration process ensures that the product is safe for the animal itself, the consumer of food derived from treated animals, those handling the product, and the environment. Studies, often using sophisticated analytical tests, are carried out to guarantee that no harmful residues remain in the food. After an animal has been given a medicine, it may be necessary to respect a withdrawal time before the animal or any of its produce enters the food chain. This process will allow any residues of a substance or its metabolites, which may still be present in an animal’s body, to fall well below the level shown to be safe.

New medicines for improved health

There is no room for complacency in the battle against disease. Work still remains to be done and many challenges still exist. Research and innovation are core values of our industry but are time and cost consuming. The objective of the regulatory process is to protect the public without stifling innovation. Regulatory authorities and the animal health industry are conscious of their responsibilities to society. They are committed partners in the task of manufacturing products available for animals, which are of high quality, safe and effective to use. Respect for the system is paramount. Its independence, objectivity and credibility must not be undermined by non-scientific considerations.


Trading practices of products of animal origin have changed over the years and resulted, on the one hand, in cheaper and more varied food for the consumer, but on the other hand, consumers now ask for improved traceability of products between place of production and the consumer. A maximum degree of transparency is also important in the marketing chain of animal health products and is part of a responsible use of veterinary medicines. The animal health industry is committed to a traceability tool to safeguard single product identification from its production up to its use.

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