Britain's vets called yesterday for a ban on the advertising of antibiotics to farmers to curb their overuse which is fuelling the growth of lethal strains of bacteria.
Britain is the only country in Europe that permits advertising of the drugs, but proposals to end the practice contained in draft regulations were withdrawn last April by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).
The Independent revealed yesterday that the use of antibiotics in farming had risen up to eightfold in 10 years.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA), which represents 12,000 vets, said it was "very disappointed" that the VMD had decided not to go ahead with the ban on advertising. Professor Bill Reilly, a past president of the BVA and an expert in the relation between animal and human disease, said: "We felt the advertising ban was a very good move and would bring us into line with the rest of Europe."
A spokesman for Defra said: "The usage of antibiotics on farms is carefully monitored to ensure responsible use. It was felt that farmers were experts in rearing livestock and could understand the issues. Farmers are not allowed to use antibiotics without the approval of a vet."
A Veterinary Medicines Directorate spokesman added: "Antibiotics are a crucial part of treating sick animals but are strictly controlled and can only be supplied with a prescription from a veterinary surgeon. Most antibiotic resistance to human infections in the UK is generated by antibiotic use in humans – not livestock."