Supermarkets must publish antibiotic use figures

13 December 2018

We are calling on all supermarkets to publish details of antibiotic use in their supply chains after our investigation found superbugs in pork products in Spain, Brazil and Thailand

We found these superbugs – bacteria resistant to antibiotics most critically important to humans – in pork on supermarket shelves in Spain, Thailand, and Brazil. This is a result of the overuse of antibiotics in the cruel factory farming of pigs.

Poor welfare practises

Antibiotic resistance is a big problem and routine overuse of antibiotics in factory farming has become a band-aid solution for poor welfare practices. 

Superbugs in the food chain can cause food poisoning, blood poisoning, urinary tract infections and in some cases, even death.   

By current estimates, superbugs are killing 700,000 people every year. 

Antibiotics and factory farming

Three quarters of the world’s antibiotics are used in farming each year, with the highest use in pigs.  

On factory farms in many countries around the world: 

  • piglets are taken from their mothers far too early   
  • mother pigs are used as breeding machines, kept in steel cages no bigger than a fridge, and are unable to turn around  
  • piglets are cruelly mutilated often with no pain relief: their tails are cut off, their teeth are ground or clipped, their ears notched. In many parts of the world most male piglets are castrated  
  • pigs are cramped in dark, squalid warehouses forced to lie in their own waste.

These stressful and cruel conditions created by pork producers are the perfect breeding ground for infection. Instead of improving pig welfare farms are overusing antibiotics to stop stressed animals getting sick, causing the emergence of various strains of superbugs.

Supermarkets must act

British supermarkets importing pork need to ensure high farm animal welfare standards regardless of where pigs are raised and report on antibiotic use in their supply chains.  

Only Asda, Co-op Waitrose and Marks & Spencer in the UK publish volumes of antibiotics used in their meat products.

Our head of campaign – raise pigs right, Jacqueline Mills, said: “We tested pork products to see for ourselves how the pig industry contributes to superbugs, and to provide evidence to supermarkets to urge them to take responsibility and help to raise pigs right."

“Factory farm conditions for pigs cause them immense pain and stress, which leads to excessive use of antibiotics. But there is a better way. Supermarkets must demand their suppliers improve the welfare of pigs.”

Our work: a better future for farming

World Animal Protection is working with producers globally to develop higher welfare systems, to get pigs out of cages and into social groups with manipulable materials to allow for expression of natural behavior and end painful mutilations. 

To read the full report click here

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