Antibiotics being used as “cheap insurance” on Europe’s factory farms

As leading public health experts call for urgent action on the growing threat of antibiotic resistant disease three prominent food and farming organisations have come together to form the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics.

Last week’s European Antibiotic Awareness Day saw many leading experts speak out against the continuing overuse of antibiotics by doctors. The Government’s chief medical officer, professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “Many antibiotics are currently prescribed and used when they don’t need to be – meaning antibiotics lose their effectiveness at a rapidly increasing rate. Professor Laura Piddock, president of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC), meanwhile warned of the “spectre of untreatable infections”.

The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics — formed by the Soil Association, Sustain and Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) — wants to ensure that the routine use of antibiotics in factory farming is also urgently addressed.

Joyce D’Silva, director of public affairs at CWIF, says: 
“Farm animals in the EU are being routinely treated with antibiotics as a cheap insurance policy. This indiscriminate overuse on the factory farm makes a world without effective antibiotics for humans ever more likely.”

Richard Young, Soil Association policy advisor, added: “Organic farmers have shown it is entirely possible to raise healthy animals with minimal use of antibiotics. We cannot get rid of factory farming overnight, but we could immediately start a Europe-wide programme of change to look after animals in ways that naturally keep them healthy.”