As a founding member of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, we are concerned by the news that Oxford University will embark on a project to combat the global threat of antibiotic resistance by developing new animal-only antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern that must be tackled, but Oxford University’s focus on the development of new animal-only antibiotics is misguided and may ultimately enable further intensification of animal farming.
“We are pleased that Oxford University recognises that the overuse of these medicines in livestock is contributing significantly to the problem,” says Cóilín Nunan, Scientific Adviser to the Alliance. “But we do not believe that the best approach is to focus on developing new animal-only antibiotics. Such antibiotics are already available and are often used without veterinary oversight to support the intensification of farming and, in some countries, for growth promotion.”
Rethinking factory farming
With time running out and the potential for another pandemic looming, we must urgently address the issue of antibiotic resistance.
“It's disturbing that after all the suffering caused by COVID-19, no-one in government is recognising that we need to rethink factory farming of pigs and poultry,” says Peter Stevenson, our Chief Policy Advisor. “Cramming huge numbers of animals together in crowded, stressful conditions could be a perfect recipe for the next pandemic.”
Health-oriented systems are the answer
The systemic overuse of antibiotics in farming has contributed to the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, and the creation of more antibiotics will permit the continued use of intensified farming practices and systems. Thankfully, there are other solutions.
“The best way to reduce antibiotic resistance in livestock is to ban all routine use of antibiotics, including preventative mass medication, and to support a shift to higher-welfare, less intensive husbandry systems where disease does not emerge or spread so easily,” continues Cóilín.
The combination of decreased use of antibiotics in livestock and a transition to health-oriented systems could help combat the global threat of antibiotic resistance – and ensure a better life for farm animals.
Find out more
The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics campaigns for a UK ban on all routine use of antibiotics and all preventative use of antibiotics in groups of animals.