World Antibiotic Awareness Week is a good time to highlight the threat of antibiotic overuse in farming
By Lynn Kavanagh, our campaign manager for animals in farming
The rise of superbugs from industrial farming is presenting a danger to public health. This is because on industrial farms, animals are routinely given the same important antibiotics used to treat humans who are seriously ill.
Our new report released on October 16 (World Food Day) shows that superbugs are emerging on farms from antibiotic overuse, and those antibiotic resistant bacteria are entering our food chain and our environment. Almost three-quarters of the world’s antibiotics are used in animals, the majority on industrial farms. Antibiotics are often used to sustain low-welfare practices such as the raising of fast-growing meat chickens and painful procedures performed on piglets, including cutting their teeth and tails. Many of these animals are housed in stressful, cramped conditions that can provide the perfect breeding ground for the spread of infection and emergence of disease.
When superbugs are passed from animals to people, they make us less able to fight disease. Already, 700,000 people die each year from infections that cannot be treated by antibiotics. The World Health Organization has declared that Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.
As of December 2018, in Canada, a veterinary prescription is required for antibiotics given to farm animals. However, administering antibiotics to farm animals for disease prevention is still commonplace, as revealed by the Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System report.
One solution to help stop the superbug crisis, would be to keep farm animals in higher welfare, healthier conditions, to promote stronger immunity and better resilience. Some of these farms exist in Canada, but not enough. And with the current pandemic on everyone’s mind, there is growing concern of when and how the next pandemic will come. Previous outbreaks such as Avian Flu and swine flu emerged from farm animals
A recent public poll, shows that 4 out of 5 people surveyed across 15 countries, including Canada, are concerned that the next pandemic could come from farm animals.
Overall poll results showed that:
4 out of 5 would refuse to shop with retailers that don’t ensure animals are treated well and antibiotics used responsibly in the meat they sell.
75% are of Canadians are concerned about the possibility of a pandemic originating from farm animals.
82% of Canadians believe antibiotics should only be used to treat sick animals
The government needs to implement stricter laws around the use of antibiotics in farming and better report and monitor how antibiotics are used in animal farming. Having higher welfare standards on farms would help to lessen the need to use antibiotics in the first place. The government should also be support farms to make sustainable transition to higher welfare, more sustainable systems.