THE BLOG
01/05/2014 14:33 BST | Updated 01/07/2014 06:59 BST

Superbugs: The Hidden Menace of Antibiotics Fed to Farm Animals

I am not suggesting that we do not treat sick animals. However, dosing an entire flock of factory farmed chickens or a herd of dairy cattle with antibiotics as a preventative measure is a major contributor to some resistant infections in humans.

Antibiotic resistance is an all too real and current issue. A new report, released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday 30 April has stated that it is a major threat to public health and that the 'implications will be devastating'.

In its first global report on antibiotic resistance, with data from 114 countries, the WHO stated that superbugs, able to evade even the most effective antibiotics, have now been found all over the world.

Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director-general for health security says: "The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill." Resistance to antibiotics is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages bacteria to develop new ways of overcoming them."

I have been working as a part of the Alliance to Save Antibiotics, along with my colleagues at the Soil Association and Sustain since 2009. We have been calling for urgent action regarding the use of antibiotics in healthy farm animals.

What many people don't realise is that antibiotics are used as a preventative measure for many intensively farmed animals. This could lead to catastrophic effects for the human race, not to mention that it is not good for the animals to be kept in intensive environments.

The reason that these farm animals need to have regular doses of antibiotics? They are being farmed in such intensive conditions, that the very nature of the way in which they are farmed is so stressful for the animals that we have to give them antibiotics to stop them getting sick in the first place. In addition, if one animal falls sick, given their proximity to one another, it is likely many more will fall ill as well.

We want to get them back on the land as then they would not be in such a stressful environment and would be less susceptible to illness and therefore shouldn't need to be treated with antibiotics as a preventative. We should be changing the way we farm, and getting animals back on the land , where they are able to perform their natural behaviours; not pumping them full of antibiotics to prevent an outbreak of disease.

Although antibiotic growth promoters have been banned in approximately 50% of countries around the world, the mass medication of farm animals continues, as a preventative measure, in nearly all countries.

This doesn't make any sense and is a backwards way of thinking, and indeed, farming. I am not suggesting that we do not treat sick animals. However, dosing an entire flock of factory farmed chickens or a herd of dairy cattle with antibiotics as a preventative measure is a major contributor to some resistant infections in humans.

Resistance to commonly used drugs is increasing across the planet and is now a problem that could affect "anyone, of any age, in any country" according to the WHO. There must be urgent action to avoid a serious crisis. Preventative use of antibiotics must be stopped. Let's farm our animals on the land. And save our antibiotics for truly sick animals, and indeed people.

The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics was founded by Compassion in World Farming, The Soil Association and Sustain and is supported by the Jeremy Coller Foundation. The Alliance exists to highlight the danger of antibiotic overuse in intensive farming to the health of people and farm animals and to be part of the solution to the problem of growing antimicrobial resistance. Its vision is a world in which human and animal health and well-being are protected by food and farming systems that do not rely routinely on antibiotics and related drugs.