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‘Critically important’ antibiotic use soaring in UK farms

Close Up Of Intensive Broiler Chickens

Worrying news has emerged that the use of fluoroquinolones, an antibiotic classed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘critically important’, increased by 59% in the UK poultry industry in just one year. This is despite calls to urgently reduce antibiotic usage.

An investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has revealed that this dramatic increase is leading to record levels of antibiotic resistance, which could leave us unable to treat life-threatening diseases caused by Campylobacter and Salmonella.

The crutch that props up factory farming

Antibiotics have been heavily abused in farming, in order to prevent intensively raised animals from getting sick in conditions which are prone to spreading bacteria. On factory farms, animals are often crowded, stressed, and frustrated, and it is common practice to treat the whole herd through their feed or water, without there being any signs of disease.

On the other hand, higher welfare systems which focus on disease prevention through good practice and only treat animals with signs of illness, do not abuse antibiotics, and are kinder to animals.

Urgent action needed

Emma Rose, the Campaigns, Communications and Lobbying specialist from The Alliance to Save our Antibiotics says, “The Government needs to follow the examples set in many other countries, like the United States, and ban all use of these antibiotics in poultry, as well as taking urgent action to reduce farm-use of other important antibiotics.

“Policy-makers are gathering in a few weeks in Brussels to vote on a proposal to ban routine, preventative mass medication of groups of animals in the EU. In the light of these findings, it is crucial that the UK Government support such a ban.”

What can I do?

EU Organic regulations forbid the purely preventative use of antibiotics on farm animals. Support higher-welfare systems by purchasing organic meat, eggs, and dairy where possible.

Email your MP now to tell the Government to listen to the evidence and stop the routine use of antibiotics.

The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics is an alliance of health, medical, environmental and animal welfare groups working to stop the overuse of antibiotics in animal farming. It was founded by Compassion in World Farming, the Soil Association and Sustain in 2009, and is supported by the Jeremy Coller Foundation.