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Farm animals consume nearly half of all antibiotics

News Section Icon Published 16/11/2011

The Alliance

A new alliance, consisting of Compassion in World Farming, The Soil Association and Sustain is launching a new report, to coincide with European Antibiotic Awareness Day, 2011. The report, Case Study of a Health Crisis, aims to 'save our antibiotics', by preventing overuse within EU farming.

The report

Compassion took 'Antibiotic Anna' to Brussels, on behalf of The Alliance, to raise public awareness of the overuse of prophylactic antibiotics within factory farming.

Case Study of a Health Crisis is calling for the use of antibiotic farming in the EU to be curbed. At present, farm animals consume almost half of the antibiotics that are produced worldwide. This frightening fact is gathered together from recent research and official studies. Our report shows that the fundamental cause of food-animal-related antibiotic resistance is factory farming.

Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive at Compassion in World Farming says:"Our farm animals in the EU are being routinely treated with prophylactic antibiotics. This indiscriminate over-use means that a world without effective antibiotics for humans is a very real prospect.

"Factory farmed animals are kept in confined, crowded and stressful conditions. All this leads to a suppression of their immune systems, so that factory farming often relies on antibiotics instead, as a compensation method. There are viable, alternative models of good animal health."

The Targets

Our combined report offers key recommendations to curb antibiotics use in farming in the EU We have set an overall target to reduce the antibiotic use on EU farms by 50% by the year 2015, amongst others.

The Alliance is not calling for a total withdrawal of antibiotic treatment of farm animals, simply to use it to treat sick animals, thereby reducing suffering and maintaining good animal welfare.

Richard Young, Soil Association Policy Advisor, says: "Organic farmers have shown it is entirely possible to raise healthy animals with minimal use of antibiotics. We cannot get rid of factory farming overnight, but we could immediately start a Europe-wide programme of change to look after animals in ways that naturally keep them healthy."

The Public Health Expert

Professor Christopher Butler, Head of the Institute of Primary Care and Public Health at Cardiff University who wrote the foreword of the report, says: "Antibiotics have saved numerous lives and have rightly been termed 'wonder' drugs. However, more and more antibiotics have been consumed for less and less benefit in many settings. All too often, antibiotics are prescribed in situations where the risk of harm outweighs the chance of benefit from the antibiotics. A significant contribution comes from over-reliance on routine use of antibiotics in intensive farming. It is not tenable to regard animal medicine as having marginal relevance to human health."

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