Antibiotics in Modern Animal Farming

Nearly 50% of antibiotics used in the UK are used in animal agriculture, and in the USA this figure is a staggering 70%+.
Many public health experts think there is massive overuse of antibiotics in farming today. Antibiotics are fed to farmed animals to offset the disease risks posed by overcrowding, stressful conditions, early weaning and maximising production. These are given regardless of whether the animal is infected or not. Greater use of antibiotics in modern animal farming raises the risk of antibiotic resistance, meaning increasing antibiotic failure for human diseases.

The Chief Medical Officer in the United Kingdom, Dame Sally Davies, recently warned Parliament that the rise of antibiotic resistance could cause a national emergency comparable to a catastrophic terrorist attack, pandemic flu or major coastal flooding. She told MPs of an ‘apocalyptic scenario’ where people going for simple operations in 20 years’ time will die of routine infections ‘because we have run out of antibiotics’.

In a recent statement released in 2012 US scientists said that:

  • “A growing body of research supported the conclusion that overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is fueling a health crisis.”

Unfortunately the use of antibiotics in farmed animals is showing no signs of decreasing.

  • In 2015 the UK government produced a review of antibiotic use in both humans and animal agriculture. It commented that, ‘Antibiotic Use in Farm Animals threatens human health’. This was also reported on the NHS choices website. It identified a number of problems with the current use of antibiotics in modern farming and highlighted the concern that some last resort antibiotics for humans are being extensively used in animals, and there are no replacements currently on the way.

Unfortunately modern farming necessitates the use of antibiotics not only to treat infections but to prevent infections due to the unnatural conditions fared animals are now kept in. In some parts of the world antibiotics are also used routinely as growth promoters to raise yields and profits.

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