More on how the way we treat our animals has real, serious and damaging effects on us –
The world is being pushed towards the unthinkable scenario of untreatable infections, warns a new paper published in the medical journal Lancet, blaming a decline in new drug discoveries and the rising numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In the EU alone, 25,000 patients die every year from infections caused by drug resistant bacteria.
As well as investment into new antibiotics, there are growing calls for a crackdown on the misuse of existing antibiotics.
The biggest problem is seen as unnecessary use in human medicine but, the excessive use of antibiotics in intensive farming units, particularly pig and poultry farms, is seen as a growing threat.
Scientists say antimicrobial resistance may also be passing between animals and humans, making the need to cut unnecessary use in farming even more urgent. The World Health Organisation says drug use in farm animals plays a ‘significant role’ in spreading antibiotic-resistant salmonella and campylobacter infections in humans.
Last month, MEPs voted in favour of a resolution calling for a ban on the prohylactic use (given as a preventative measure before they get sick) of antibiotics in livestock farming.
An EU-wide action plan, published by the European Commission this week, stopped short of proposing stricter controls on the farming sector’s use of antibiotics – most MEPs expect a compromise rather than an outright ban when proposals eventually reach the EU Parliament for a vote in the next year.
Animal welfare campaigners have been calling this week for a 50 per cent cut in antibiotic use on farms, saying the alarming discovery of new strains of the E.coli and MRSA on farms, resistant to existing antibiotics, was due to the overuse of antibiotics.
However, within the farming community there is strong opposition to new restrictions on antibiotic use. The NFU’s European spokesperson Dawn Howard said prophylactic treatment was needed in some cases to keep livestock fit and healthy.
Along with poultry, intensive pig farming is one of the biggest users of antibiotics (together making up 95 per cent of the total used in farming), but industry body, the National Pig Association (NPA), said the focus should be on responsible use rather than banning.