Green MEP warns animal antibiotic overuse could create ‘superbugs’

Green MEP warns animal antibiotic overuse could create ‘superbugs’

Green Party Member of the European Parliament for the East of England Catherine Rowett has used European Antibiotic Awareness Day to call for more prudent use of antibiotics, especially in agriculture.

The world is currently facing the problem that bacteria are becoming antibiotic-resistant. The infections caused by such bacteria are therefore far harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.

The excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture is regularly cited as a major contributor to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistance in human medicine, and campaigners are warning that Brexit may result in increased use of antibiotics in UK farming.

The World Health Organisation has called on farmers and the wider food industry to “stop using antibiotics routinely to promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals”, particularly among intensively reared livestock.

Alliance to Save our Antibiotics note:

“In the UK and across Europe, vast quantities of antibiotics are still used in farming. Farmers may even use antibiotics classed as 'critically important' for humans by the World Health Organisation. What's more, while in human medicine antibiotics are used to cure the sick, in the farming sector these precious resources are often given to groups of healthy animals.”

Figures from 2017 by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed that Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk have some of the highest numbers of intensive farms in the country with a total of 176.

Catherine Rowett MEP said:

“The routine use of antibiotics in animals is not only unnecessary, it is dangerous. Scientists are warning us that the overuse of antibiotics risks creating ‘superbugs’ that will spread diseases we can’t treat.

“Safeguards prescribed by the European Union currently go some way to prevent the overuse or abuse of antibiotics. Those existing standards must be upheld and stricter regulations are also needed, whether or not we leave the EU.

“Instead of dosing up our animals, we should be reducing the risk of them getting infected in the first place by ensuring they are kept in decent conditions. Intensive farming of livestock leaves the animals stressed, which increases their vulnerability to disease, and increases the chances of infection spreading, due to the crowded conditions.

“Organic and high-welfare systems do not face these problems, and do not require routine daily antibiotic treatment of healthy animals.”

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