Pellets of animal feed are in a mixed pile of antibiotics to represent the overuse of antibiotics in the farming industry.

UK falls behind EU neighbours with overuse of antibiotics on farms



MPs asked Mark Spencer, the Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries, if he plans to introduce a ban on the overuse of antibiotics on farm animals in the UK.

On the 18th of January, MP Virendra Sharma led a debate in the Houses of Parliament calling for a ban on the overuse on antibiotics on healthy animals. Antibiotics are routinely given to healthy animals trapped in factory farms to prevent them from becoming sick due to the horrendous conditions they are kept in. Without the antibiotics they are given, they would not be able to survive these appalling conditions.

Factory farming inflicts unspeakable cruelty on billions of animals in the UK every year. It confines them to horrendous conditions often with barely enough room to turn around or lie down. This highly stressful and often barren environment can lead to injuries and severe behavioural issues, including aggression, tail biting in pigs, feather pecking and even cannibalism. The cruelty does not end there. Factory farming subjects animals to painful mutilations, such as tail docking and teeth clipping, without effective pain relief. The overuse of antibiotics doesn’t just facilitate cruel conditions, it is now affecting human health.

Feeding healthy farm animals antibiotics when they are not sick is leading to superbugs, otherwise known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Superbugs are bacteria that have developed a resistance to antibiotics that we use to treat common human illnesses, such as sepsis and meningitis.

A mother pig feeds her young through a farrowing crate in UK factory farm.

The more antibiotics we use, the more bacteria become resistant, and the less effective antibiotics are to treating illness. Superbugs can even adapt to survive multiple antibiotics making infections impossible to treat. Superbugs have been found in the meat from factory farms and rivers surrounds the farms – in short, the government must act now to prevent this looming health crisis and end the suffering of billions of farm animals trapped in factory farms in the UK.

We were delighted to see so many MPs from different parties support Mr Sharma at the debate to speak about the dangers of the overuse of antibiotics on healthy farm animals to compensate for inhumane farming conditions and the danger this now poses for human healthy.

Steven Bonnar MP (SNP Shadow Spokesperson for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) stated ‘It is vital that the UK Government tackle antimicrobial resistance not only domestically, but internationally through diplomacy and trade negotiations. If Scotland can take such action to protect our own farm animals through our very limited powers, then why can the UK Government not do so with the powers that they have?’

Daniel Zeichner MP (Labour Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) confirmed that he ‘is in in no doubt that moving away from antibiotic use will play a key role in improving and safeguarding our health as well as the health of animals stewarded by farmers and vets.’

Margaret Farrier MP (Independent) said, ‘The use of antibiotics in factory-farmed animals as a method of disease prevention to compensate for poor living conditions is a huge contributing factor to widespread antimicrobial resistance.’

However, we were disappointed that Minister Spencer did not commit to a ban on the overuse of antibiotics on healthy farm animals despite a clear need for a ban. We are now trailing behind our EU neighbours where antibiotics can no longer be used to compensate for poor hygiene, inadequate animal husbandry or lack of care to compensate for poor management.

It is our hope that the government brings in a ban immediately to ensure that welfare standards are raised, human health is safeguarded, the spread of AMR is stopped, and that there is No Future for Factory Farming.

Image credits: Hero image: KOOKLE/Shutterstock

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'If Scotland can take such action to protect our own farm animals through our very limited powers, then why can the UK Government not do so with the powers that they have?’

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