The global antibiotics crisis in farm animals
Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health today. It poses a major challenge to both humans and animals.
This week, November 18-22, marks World Antibiotics Awareness Week. Every year, organisations including World Animal Protection come together to create awareness on the overuse of antibiotics and give solutions to mitigating the crisis.
Globally, bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat the infections they cause, resulting in longer illnesses and more deaths. At the same time, not enough new antibiotics are being developed to replace older ones.
Overuse of antibiotics in farm animals
Globally, three quarters of antibiotics are used in farming, and the highest antibiotics overuse is in farm animals such as pigs, chicken and cows.
Here in Canada, approximately 78% of all antibiotics in a single year were sold or distributed to food animals. In 2016, 66.4% of antibiotics were used for disease prevention in pigs, 30.2% for growth promotion and just 3.4% for disease treatment.
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Why farm animals?
Low welfare on factory farms has impact on both farm animals and people. Practices like cages, barren housing, painful mutilations and taking babies from their mothers too early is associated with overuse of antibiotics on farms around the world.
When animals are housed in confined, overcrowded and barren conditions, their health declines and encourages the development and spread of disease. When these bacteria are not killed, they end up in the food that lands on your plate, causing drug resistance when you fall ill.
How can we stop antibiotic overuse in humans and animals?
The journey to stopping antibiotic resistance in farm animals starts with small actions within farming systems. These include:
- only giving antibiotics to animals as when recommended by a veterinary doctor
- phasing out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion and only using antibiotics to treat diseases as prescribed by a veterinary professional
- vaccinating animals to reduce the need for antibiotics
- improving biosecurity on farms and preventing infections through improved hygiene and animal welfare
- creating better welfare conditions so farm animal producers can reduce antibiotic use and help to tackle the global superbug crisis
Farm animals with better welfare, including housing and living conditions, are healthier and more robust, meaning antibiotics don’t need to be routinely used. We’re calling on the world’s largest producers to end the caging of mother pigs, barren housing, painful piglet mutilations and removing piglets from their mothers too early.