The UK government must ban antibiotic use on healthy farm animals in line with the EU following our research that found antibiotic resistant superbugs dangerous to public health in rivers and lakes beside factory farms in Spain, the USA, Canada and Thailand.
This suggests factory farms could be discharging ARGS and superbugs into the wider environment, as a result of pig waste being spread on fields and leeching into public waterways.
ARGs are the building blocks of superbugs that emerge due to antibiotic overuse, causing contamination of our environment and food chain.
Antibiotics are given to healthy animals in poor factory farm conditions to stop them getting sick and the EU will be banning this practice from 28th January 2022. The UK imports 60% of its pork products from countries including Spain and the USA identified in the report.
Animals on factory farms are cruelly caged, painfully mutilated and babies are ripped from their mothers at a young age causing unthinkable suffering.
Worse than Covid-19?
The superbug crisis poses a threat that could eclipse the Covid-19 pandemic. Already, more than 700,000 people die each year from superbugs where antibiotics are ineffective in treating infections.
Lindsay Duncan, World Animal Protection farming campaigns manager said, “Superbugs emerge due to the overuse of antibiotics on animals in factory farms and we’re calling on the UK government to follow the EU’s lead and ban routine use.
“Raising animal welfare on farms is vital to reducing antibiotic use and helping prevent antibiotic resistance which the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates will kill 10 million people a year by 2050.”
Devastating effects on local people
We also interviewed people from local communities to gauge their experiences and firsthand accounts. Many complained about the farms but were too afraid to speak out.
One smallholder farmer in Thailand, who wished to remain anonymous, said:
“Rice doesn’t grow the way it should when the farms release the water to the field. Some rice crops are damaged and some just die. Fish can’t also live in the pond, it’s actually the whole ecosystem in this area. I used to complain about this, but nothing has happened.”
Another resident, known as Rosa, who lives in the Aragon region in Spain, said:
“Without water there is no future, and here we don’t have any water to spare. These villages will not survive if you cannot open the windows, or be outside or walk, if you cannot drink the tap water, or if we lose our great attraction, which is the landscapes and tranquility.
“The meat lobby is very powerful, and the profit of a few companies is taking precedence over public health.”
Positive change in the EU
In England the latest figures from the Environment Agency show that all rivers have failed to meet quality tests for pollution with agricultural run-off one of the key sources of pollution.
World Animal Protection is calling for governments to ban the routine use of antibiotics to prevent disease across groups of farm animals and to ensure that remaining factory farms meet FARMS animal welfare standards at a minimum.