By now it’s widely acknowledged that the world is facing a crisis when it comes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections. That is, after all, why the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have created annual antibiotics awareness weeks during the same week of November. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that “antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.”
It is critical that as a global community we take steps now to curb this terrifying trend and to make every effort to preserve the integrity of life-saving medicines.
We must continue to address over-prescription of antibiotics in the human health industry, which has been the primary focus of national and global efforts to combat resistant infections. But, we must give the same attention and sense of urgency to routine use in animal agriculture in order to preserve the efficacy of current and future antibiotics.
We cannot solve the antibiotic resistance crisis without addressing how we raise animals for food. Here are a few reasons why:
What must be done to effect change when it comes to antibiotics and raising food animals?
Protecting antibiotics requires treating food animals better. Providing clean, comfortable housing, more nutritious and naturally-suited diets, and sufficient space can keep animals healthy and reduce reliance on routine antibiotics. Strong animal welfare benefits not just animals, but also public health and the environment. Eliminating the industrial emphasis on rapid, unnatural growth rates—a common purpose of on-farm antibiotics use historically—is imperative to ending the industry’s reliance on many animal drugs. While the U.S. has taken some, mostly voluntary steps to address the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion, it continues to allow the use of non-human antibiotics for this purpose.
WHO tells farmers, “only give antibiotics to animals to control or treat infectious diseases,” and calls for the phase-out of routine disease prevention uses. To preserve antibiotics, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. farmers need to get on board. In addition to requiring producers to create humane, healthy living conditions that would limit antibiotic abuse to medical necessity, we must prohibit growth promotion and disease prevention uses of important antibiotics in animals, and use only with veterinary oversight.
What is CFS doing to help avert the antibiotic crisis?
We all have a part to play in protecting public health, animals and our food system. Learn more about why producers use antibiotics and other animal drugs; which drugs they're using; how government (fails to) regulate animal drugs; how these drugs impact the environment, public health and animal welfare; and how we can get these drugs out of our meat supply.