The global risk for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) can be reduced by reducing antimicrobial use (AMU). Veterinarians are one of the key actors in relation to AMU in livestock, and understanding the dynamics of veterinary treatment and prescription is central to achieving AMU reduction. Veterinary AMU decisions are influenced by a complex pattern of both individual and contextual factors. In this study, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 16 Danish cattle veterinarians to investigate their perspectives on AMU and current practices in a national context with low use and extensive legal control. We found that personal experiences and emotions, rather than scientific evidence, guided some veterinarians when making AMU choices. Furthermore, less-experienced veterinarians felt pressure to prescribe according to colleagues' and farmers' preferences for certain antimicrobials. We found that changes in Danish legislation seemed to have introduced hesitancy and a lack of motivation within the veterinary profession, and that AMR was perceived as an abstract threat not applicable to the veterinarians' daily professional decision making. We concluded that the lack of field-generated research of local relevance nourished a culture in which AMU choices are built on personal experience rather than scientific evidence, which also diminished newly educated veterinarians' self-confidence in relation to their AMU choices. Future research should focus on developing locally relevant research on optimal AMU choices and AMR, and the implications of extensive legal control of AMU in livestock farming should be further investigated to find a balance on the path to reducing AMU.
- antimicrobial resistance
- societal context
- veterinarian perception and choices