TORONTO–The rise of superbugs from industrial farming is presenting a danger to public health worldwide says global charity World Animal Protection. This is because on industrial farms, animals are routinely given the same important antibiotics used to treat humans who are seriously ill.
October 16th was World Food Day, and coincided with a report released by the organization shows that superbugs are emerging on farms from antibiotic overuse and those antibiotic resistant bacteria are entering our food chain and our environment. Almost three-quarters of the world’s antibiotics are used in animals, the majority on industrial farms. Antibiotics are often used to sustain low-welfare practices, such as the raising of fast-growing meat chickens and painful procedures performed on piglets, including cutting their teeth and tails. Many of these animals are housed in stressful, cramped conditions that can provide the perfect breeding ground for the spread of infection and emergence of disease.
This is risky business – when superbugs are passed from animals to people, they make us less able to fight disease. Already, 700,000 people die each year from infections that cannot be treated by antibiotics. The World Health Organization has declared that Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is one of the top 10 global public health threats.
Last year, a study from the Council of Canadian Academies warned of the potential rise in the percentage of bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotic treatments. The report said that overuse of antibiotics on farm animals raised for food contributes to this.
As of December 2018, in Canada, a veterinary prescription is required for antibiotics given to farm animals. However, administering antibiotics to farm animals for disease prevention is still commonplace, as revealed by the Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System report.
One solution to help stop the superbug crisis, would be to keep farm animals in higher welfare, healthier conditions, to promote stronger immunity and better resilience. Some of these farms exist in Canada, but not enough. And with the current pandemic on everyone’s mind, there is growing concern of when and how the next pandemic will come. Previous outbreaks such as Avian Flu and swine flu emerged from farm animals.
A recent public poll shows that 4 out of 5 people surveyed across 15 countries, including Canada, are concerned that the next pandemic could come from farm animals.
Overall poll results showed that:
4 out of 5 would refuse to shop with retailers that don’t ensure animals are treated well and antibiotics are used responsibly in the meat they sell.
75% of Canadians are concerned about the possibility of a pandemic originating from farm animals.
82% of Canadians believe antibiotics should only be used to treat sick animals.
Lynn Kavanagh, Farm Campaign Manager for World Animal Protection says, “The government needs to implement stricter laws to reduce the use of antibiotics in farming. And improve on its reporting and monitoring of antibiotic usage on farm animals. Having higher welfare standards on farms would help to lessen the need to use antibiotics in the first place. The government should also be supporting farmers to make a transition to higher welfare and more sustainable farming practices.”
More Canadians are becoming aware of the cruelty of industrial farming and its negative effect on our environment, too. The same poll also showed that over half of Canadians felt that the way farm animals are currently treated is unsustainable for our health and the health of our planet.
There’s a growing concern of the negative impact of industrial farming from environment groups too.
Greenpeace International Senior Strategist, Monique Mikhail, says, “Industrial animal farming is tearing down our forests, polluting our water, warming the planet and harming our health. We must end industrial animal farming and its unacceptable dependence on antibiotics, drastically reduce how much meat we produce and eat, and transition to a just and ecological food system.”
It’s clear that things need to change. World Animal Protection is calling for the end of industrial farming, reduced production and consumption of farm animal products and for remaining farm animal production to be high welfare. This includes keeping animals out of cages, allowing them access to the outdoors, with plenty of space to move around and to be able to perform natural behaviors.
World Animal Protection is urging governments adopt a one health approach that recognizes the link between the wellbeing of people, animals and the environment.
About World Animal Protection
From our offices around the world, including China, Australia, Brazil, Kenya and Canada, we move the world to protect animals. Last year, we gave more than 3 billion animals better lives through our campaigns that focus on animals in the wild, animals in disasters, animals in communities and animals in farming.