In organic farming, animals do not receive medicines or vaccines! - how accurate is this?

In the case of both organic and conventional farming systems animals can be prescribed antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. The EU Regulation[ref]Regulation (EU) 2018/848[/ref] on organic production and labelling of organic products stipulates that: 

  • When the animals are ill, allopathic veterinary medicinal products including antibiotics may be used where necessary and under strict conditions. This is only allowed when the use of phytotherapeutic, homeopathic and other products is inappropriate 
  • The use of immunological veterinary medicines is permitted, i.e. vaccines. Where an animal or a group of animals receives more than three courses of treatments with chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products, including antibiotics (excepting vaccinations, treatments for parasites and compulsory eradication schemes), within 12 months, or more than one course of treatment if their productive lifecycle is less than one year, neither the livestock concerned nor produce derived from such livestock can be sold as organic products.

The regulation also states that:

  • Growth promotersand synthetic amino-acids are prohibited (note that the use of antibiotics for growth promotion purposes have been banned in ALL farming practices in Europe since 2006)
  • Natural methods of reproduction must be used, artificial insemination is however allowed 
  • Hormones or similar substances are not permitted, unless as a form of veterinary therapeutic treatment for an individual animal