Why You Need To Be Concerned That 80% Of Antibiotics Are In The Food Chain
Yes, incase you have missed what is finally hitting headlines; livestock consume over 60% of all antibiotics produced globally and even higher in the US with the number over 80%! This is a major problem because it has the opposite affect of what we need antibiotics for: saving lives. Instead it is putting human lives at risk by decreasing the effectiveness of antibiotics and at the same time, increasing the spread of antibiotic resistant super-bugs.
By administering farm animals with daily low doses of antibiotics, over time we have seen bacterias evolve to the point that by last year, in 2016, there were strains found that now even the "last-resort" extra-strong antibiotics can not treat with antibiotic-resistant infections already killing an estimated 23,000 Americans each year, it is not good news. That is just one country. Yet the problem extends worldwide as factory farming has become the norm across the globe, and the World Health Organisation has called it "the greatest and most urgent global risk".
We are weakening a medical drug that, while I certainly don't promote for your average cold, are with out a doubt, life-saving.
All because we want more and more meat. And this meat is coming from factory farms.
Factory farms feed their animals antibiotics daily because they promote growth at a faster rate, even at the cost of the animals health, and because in these style of farms they have to tackle the spread of rampant diseases that occur when you keep living beings in such crowded, unhygienic quarters. This is the case across the board for pigs, chickens, cows in feedlots, turkeys, ducks and even seafood. Yes. That's right. Even your fish is now likely coming from a "factory farm," with aquaculture the fastest growing section in agriculture, where thousands of fish are crammed into filthy waters creating cesspits of infection.
Studies show that animal agriculture spreads antibiotic-resistant bacteria via numerous pathways including the consumption of the meat of the animals that were fed the antibiotics, through the manure of the animals on the farms either leaching back into the land around the farms and when it is used as manure on land for other crops and airborne through environmental factors such as dust from feedlots.
The way animals are raised for meat is no longer just an ethical issue of whether you want to kill and animal or not. The manner in which they are reared is now affecting so many facets of our life, from the environment to our health system. And this misuse of antibiotics has the scientific community very concerned, and now finally the world is taking notice.
At the World Health Organisation assembly held in Geneva in May this year, a global action plan to tackle antibiotic resistance, was endorsed with the four key areas for action in the food and agriculture sphere being:
- Improving awareness of AMR issues among farmers and producers, veterinary professionals and authorities, policymakers, and food consumers
- Building national capacities for surveillance and monitoring of AMR and antimicrobial use (AMU) in food and agriculture
- Strengthening governance related to AMU and AMR in food and agriculture
- Promoting good practices in food and agricultural systems and the prudent use of antimicrobials
Now to implement it.... but with the agriculture industry so large, often unregulated and focused on profit, I personally am sceptical these action plans are drastic enough for the scale of what is happening. Yet to look on the bright side, moves are being made....McDonalds in the States announced they would start serving chicken from farms that don't use "medically important antibiotics"and Subway said they plan to switch to chicken raised without antibiotics. It is a start because it shows the big guys are listening, and the farms are mostly dictated to by them due to their high number of stores. But it is still a very very long way from where we need to get to.
We all need to make changes for this cause.
If you and your family are eating meats and animal products that come from factory farms you are ingesting low doses of antibiotics yourself via the meat and are also perpetuating this system that is causing major health issues. Since 80% of meat now comes from factory farms, unless you are choosing organic meat where the farmers can not give their animals antibiotics unless for a specific illness, it is likely you are. On well-run traditional farms, the animals grow at a normal, healthy rate and do not need antibiotics generally because they are provided with everything they need to stay healthy - fresh air, clean water, natural food sources, space, and other things instrumental for their instincts to be fulfilled. I always recommend that if you choose to eat meat to eat it from an animal that was healthy and happy and support a farmer that made the effort to provide that for the animal. Why would anyone want to support cruel practises that in the end are causing major global health issues that could directly adversely affect their or their children wellbeing?
Become aware. Choose for the future you want to see.