Antibiotic Resistance and the Livestock Industry

There are many issues associated with the livestock industry ranging from ethical concerns over animal welfare and abuse to the impacts it has on climate change via methane production. One overlooked area however relates to our campaign: the livestock industry is one of the main causes of antibiotic resistance.

So we know that increased exposure to antibiotics creates a selective pressure killing off weaker bacteria but allowing genetically mutated ‘resistant’ bacteria to live and reproduce creating more resistant bacteria (known as a strain). In humans this tends to happen whenever we are ill and occasionally take antibiotics (although the chances of creating resistant bacteria are amplified through incorrect usage – stay tuned for an article on that), antibiotics usage in humans is more predominant in healthcare facilities however, such as hospitals and nursing home, this is where antibiotic usage is more prolonged and common. It is still rare for humans to be constantly consuming antibiotics over a long period, this however is what is happening with the livestock industry.

Livestock producers obviously want their animals to grow larger, which requires them being healthy, so that they can sell them for more money per kilo or as a higher quality product. Livestock producers also want to keep as many of their animals alive and well as long as possible. So we see livestock producers administering antibiotics in massive volumes to their animals to keep them well.

Livestock production has become the single largest use of antibiotics worldwide, with 80% of all antibiotics sold in the United States being used for livestock production. The key piece of information here is that the drugs being sold are exactly the same that you and I are prescribed when we get ill. Every single important group of antibiotics is currently in use within the livestock industry meaning resistant bacteria are being created in mass numbers for every drug we have. This is often amplified by the unhygienic and unsanitary living conditions of livestock, which act as the perfect breeding group for bacteria to multiply and create resistant strains and ‘superbugs’ which can then infect humans and cannot be treated by traditional antibiotics.

So what can we do? Firstly make sure the meat you purchase is of a high quality (this will also help you avoid getting ill and needing antibiotics!) and that the animal was not fed with antibiotics. Secondly spread the word, these issues need to be spread via word of mouth. Thirdly consider contacting your local government official and requesting a review of livestock production practices in your local area. Fourthly, maybe just become a vegetarian.

Stay well.

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