National targets need to be set and met to reduce the use of antibiotics in agriculture, before antimicrobial resistance claims more lives and modern medicine loses its most important tool, according to UK charity the Soil Association.
Almost half (42%) of all antibiotics are used in farming, primarily in intensive livestock production to compensate for crowded, unnatural conditions on intensive farms. Most pigs, poultry and dairy cows receive antibiotics frequently, whether or not they are unwell.
This usage contributes to the growth of antibiotic resistant super bugs – entirely new strains of E.coli and MRSA superbugs have become problems on European farms, and these strains are now starting to be found in the UK.
The Government has set a target for a reduction of antibiotic use in medicine – and through the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics, the Government should also set a binding target for a reduction in the agricultural sector too.
An option is to buy more organic meat and dairy – organic standards put animal welfare first, and restrict the use of antibiotics and free of GMOs: organic animals can only be treated with medicine if they are genuinely sick.