By Debbie James

The use of antibiotics in food-producing animals has been a hot topic for some time now.

Administering antibiotics to livestock purely to promote growth has been banned in Wales and the rest of Europe since 2006.

Astonishingly it was only two years ago that the US ditched the practice of giving animals tiny doses of antibiotics over a long period of time to make them grow quicker.

Welsh farmers have made remarkable progress in cutting antibiotic use. Overall there has been a 40 per cent decrease while the poultry sector deserves special mention for achieving an incredible 70 per cent reduction.

The debate on the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture is that if animal pathogens become more resistant, that resistance could be developed by human pathogens too.

Pressure to reduce antibiotic usage in animals is only going to increase.

Antibiotics are one of Britain's proudest scientific achievements. They have transformed medicine since Alexander Fleming first discovered penicillin at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, in 1928 and their efficacy must be protected.

Alongside tighter controls on the human medical side, farmers must do everything they can to reduce their reliance on antibiotics, not only to protect us but their animals too.

Animals get sick and need treatment, and for that they need effective antibiotics. This will be compromised if antibiotic resistance to some important pathogens continues to grow.

Some argue that it is of marginal importance the extent to which antibiotic usage in animals is responsible for resistance by human pathogens, others that it is significant and that it would be irresponsible not to address it.

Surely it is better that farmers change their ways than channel energy, time and money attempting to prove that the use they make of antibiotics in animals is acceptable.

Livestock farmers must accept stricter controls on their use and work harder to achieve the targets they have been set. Failing to adopt a policy of limited and careful use would be irresponsible.