It has been reported today that the UK government will be bringing the issue of antibiotic resistance to the G8 table. This is excellent news.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that if we fail to address this problem we could soon face "a post-antibiotic era, in which many common infections will no longer have a cure and once again, kill unabated".
The overuse of antibiotics in intensive livestock farming should be centre stage in this debate. It is a major risk to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
The WHO points out that worldwide, approximately half of current antibiotic use is in farming. Antibiotics must of course be used to treat sick animals. However, in intensive farming antibiotics are frequently given on a prophylactic basis to whole herds or flocks via their feed and water. The aim is to ward off the diseases that are almost inevitable when animals are kept in overcrowded, stressful conditions.
Compassion, along with the Soil Association and Sustain, is part of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics. Our recent report highlighted how our health is under threat from the overuse of antibiotics in intensive farming. We are urging the G8 to recognise the need to phase out the regular prophylactic use of antibiotics in farming, in particular those antibiotics classified by the WHO as "critically important" for human medicine.
Disease should be prevented by good hygiene, husbandry and housing. Good health should be promoted by avoiding overcrowding and excessive herd or flock sizes, reducing stress for example by enabling animals to perform their natural behaviour, avoiding genetic selection for very high growth rates and yields and ending premature weaning of piglets.
Take action on antibiotics.