Written evidence submitted by MSD Animal Health UK (FS0026)

About this submission

MSD Animal Health UK is pleased to contribute to the evidence being considered by the Committee regarding its Food Security Inquiry.  Our company is a leading supplier of biopharmaceutical and technology products and services serving the veterinary health sector and livestock farming community in the UK.

We note that the Committee is seeking views on a number of questions, some of which are listed below and followed by our views which we hope will be a valuable contribution to the considerations of the Committee in due course.


What are the key factors affecting the resilience of food supply chains and causing disruption and rising food prices – including input costs, labour shortages and global events? What are the consequences for UK businesses and consumers?

Protein is a critical part of the diet of British households and the animal health industry plays an essential role in the protein supply chain, including its production volumes and efficiency.  The resilience of such food supply chains is determined in large part by the efficiency and productivity of the livestock farming industry and a successful farming industry will drive a robust supply environment, mitigating inflationary pressures

Boosting Productivity of UK Livestock Farming

Maintaining the health of UK farm animals, which include cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and fish, leads to benefits to UK farming in productivity, efficiency, animal welfare and environmental sustainability. Preventive health approaches are key to maintaining animal health – with vaccination and technologies for identification and monitoring of animals playing a critical role

We refer the Committee to the recently published NOAH Livestock Vaccination Guideline[1] which sets out expert recommendations for the vaccination of UK cattle and sheep. 

We also refer the Committee to the soon to be published Social Market Foundation report on the future of farming (‘Moovin’ on Up’)[2] which offers research-based insights from farmers on the adoption of animal identification and monitoring technologies in livestock farming and offers recommendations on related policy interventions.

Considering the example of one specific livestock sector in the U.K., Atlantic salmon represented a £1 billion sector in Scotland in 2021, contributing £640 million and 2,500 jobs to the Scottish economy.[3]  The recently published recommendations of the UK Technical Advisory Group (UKTAG) on a proposed Environmental Quality Standard regarding a key method of managing salmon lice infestations in salmon farms[4] must be carefully reviewed to ensure they do not impose any unintended negative consequences on the Atlantic salmon industry in Scotland – such as reduced productivity, reduced production volumes or increased costs.  Such negative consequences at this sensitive time for UK food security should be avoided.

Veterinary Sector & Regulation

Another crucial part of a successful livestock farming sector in the UK is the availability of veterinary professional expertise and services. Currently the veterinary profession is facing some issues with recruitment and retention within the sector, and it is vital that training and professional support for British vets is supported whenever possible, working with veterinary institutions and businesses. 

Furthermore, the role of regulatory authorities is another critical factor determining the quality and speed with which veterinary medicines are made available in the U.K. market over time.  The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) is the regulator in the UK and plays a critical role in ensuring that sufficient supplies of safe and effective medicines for animal health conditions are available. With the workflow required from the VMD steadily increasing due to the UK’s new sovereign regulatory institutions, regulations and processes, it is vital that VMD teams continue to be appropriately resourced to deliver their work in a timely way.


How will the proposals in the Government’s food strategy policy paper affect:



Food Standards & Evidencing

The Government’s food strategy pledges to increase global food security in the long term through increasing the sustainability and resilience of agriculture and other areas of the food system.


The food strategy suggests that the UK will set out updated animal health standards for those wishing to access the UK market. There is consumer demand, both domestically and globally, for high animal welfare products.


Crises and trust issues, such as the BSE crisis of the 90s, can have major repercussions for UK trade, as the ban on UK beef and lamb exports to USA shows. Ensuring trust in UK standards and being able to quickly evidence these standards are essential to boosting exports.


Technology offers the potential to provide much greater data and information than ever before regarding the quality and provenance of food products. Animal identification and on-farm monitoring technology enable full independent traceability from birth to slaughter, as well as the evidence needed to support animal welfare claims. It is therefore important that future Government plans support the role-out of animal monitoring technology across agriculture, in order to enhance trust in UK produce and promote its export globally.


Net Zero

The food strategy emphasises the Government’s existing net zero strategy designed to tackle emissions. However, it does not contain significant new commitments on agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which will affect the UK meeting its 2050 target as decarbonisation of agriculture and food production are essential for achieving this goal. GHG emissions from agriculture and food production will also need to be reduced to address climate change and air quality concerns.


More efficient farming is linked to reduced emissions. Improving animal health, through vaccination and technological monitoring, is key to making farms more efficient and thus greener. It is therefore important that increased animal vaccination coverage and the use of appropriate technology be considered in the Government’s plans for food security.


Food Labelling

The strategy also aims to ensure that food information including labels, online information and QR codes, is optimised and based upon a set of established overarching principles defined by Government.


As part of this the Government has already consulted on Food Labelling for Animal Welfare, which sought to assess reforms in this realm focusing on the standards used, as well as the potential scope, regulation and enforcement of such a labelling scheme. MSD Animal Health submitted a response to this consultation, emphasising that the set of welfare standards which the labelling reform will be based on, must consider the good health of an animal – because good welfare includes good health.


DEFRA must consider evidence-based standards which support the Five Freedoms set out in the Animal Welfare Act, including robust data on animal health and animal behaviour. On-farm monitoring technology is able to provide data which will feed into the development of these standards and allow them to focus on disease prevention and welfare improvements, which is vital in ensuring the resilience of food supply chains.



How could the Government’s proposed land use strategy for England improve food security? What balance should be stuck between land use for food production and other goals – such as environmental benefit


Whatever land use strategy is employed, the areas of land (and marine environment) dedicated to livestock farming must be used for farming activity that is as efficient and productive as possiblePreventive health approaches, using vaccination and technologies for monitoring of animal health and welfare, represent a substantial opportunity to further improve the efficiency and productivity of livestock farming in the UK.  For example, currently significant wastage arises from farming activity related to the breeding of animals which do not always produce youngstock - yet naturally those animals require land allocation and resources in the form of land and feed.  Improved health among such animals, and use of technology to improve conception rates (for example by monitoring the behaviour of the cow to optimise the management of insemination and calving and reduce dependency on reproductive hormones) will reduce wastage and increase the output from the farmed land resource.

The Science of Healthier Animals – About MSD Animal Health U.K.

MSD, known as Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., USA in the United States and Canada, uses the power of leading-edge science to save and improve lives around the world.  For more than a century, MSD has been at the forefront of research, bringing forward medicines, vaccines and innovative health solutions for the world’s most challenging diseases.

MSD Animal Health is a division of the company committed to The Science of Healthier Animals®.  It offers veterinarians, farmers, pet owners and governments one of the widest ranges of veterinary pharmaceuticals, vaccines and health management solutions in the industry, along with a suite of connected technology that includes identification, traceability and monitoring products.

For more information please contact James Read, Director – Policy & Communications james.read@msd.com.




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[1] National Office for Animal Health.  Livestock Vaccination Guideline. May 2022. Online at: https://www.noah.co.uk/livestock-vaccination-guideline-provides-a-new-vision-and-guidance-for-animal-health-industry/

[2] Social Market Foundation.  Moovin’ On Up.  Expected publication in October 2022.]

[3]               Salmon Scotland Economic Quarterly. 2021 Quarter 4. https://www.salmonscotland.co.uk/sites/default/files/inline-images/salmon%20scotland%20-%20economic%20quarterly%20-%202021%20q4.pdf

[4] UKTAG Environmental Quality Standards Recommendation for Emamectin Benzoate.  Online at: https://www.wfduk.org/resources/uktag-environmental-quality-standards-recommendation-emamectin-benzoate