How do you like your meat, with or without antibiotics?

November 17, 2016

 

Cyprus uses too much antibiotics for animals.

 

Facts:

According to data released by ‘The Alliance to Save our Antibiotics’ – a coalition of health, medical, farming, environmental and civil society organisations from across the EU, Cyprus shows an extremely high use of antibiotic drugs administered to farm animals and would comes second out of the 29 countries reporting data.

Benefits of Antibiotics:
Antibiotics have revolutionised modern medicine and saved millions of lives. The benefits of antibiotics in animal feed include increasing efficiency and growth rate, treating clinically sick animals and preventing or reducing the incidence of infectious disease.

Current use of antibiotics:
Over the years our agriculture went from traditional to industrial. Intensive farms are widespread in developed nations and increasingly prevalent worldwide. Most of the meat, dairy, eggs, fruits and vegetables available in supermarkets are produced by such farms. To achieve economies of scale, animals are kept in battery cages. Food is supplied in place. Movements are restricted. Some of these animals never see the daylight.
The goal of intensive farming being to increase production and reduce costs, antibiotics in animal feed are mainly used  to increase efficiency and growth rate rather than to combat specific diseases.

Consequences of an overuse of antibiotics:
At some point the bacteria evolve to resist the antibiotics, after animals have been fed antibiotics over a period of time, they retain the strains of bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics. These bacteria proliferate in the animal. Transfer of the bacteria from animal to human is possible through many practices and can cause dramatic health issues.

Legal framework:
Since 2006, antibiotics cannot be used for growth in the European Union.
However, antibiotics can still be used for routine disease prevention. This means, for example, that it remains legal for a prescription to be written for mass medication of animals (usually pigs or poultry) via feed or drinking water, even in situations when no disease has been diagnosed in any of the animals.
Routine preventative use is no longer practiced in the Nordic countries and the Netherlands, which is why these countries have lower levels of antibiotic use than in Cyprus and most of Europe.
There does not appear to be any ban on routine disease prevention in Cyprus yet.
The European Parliament has voted to ban routine preventative use of farm antibiotics, but this needs to be accepted by the Council of Ministers.

Positive note?
According to the same study, antibiotic sales for animal feed in Cyprus have actually dropped. In 2011, 52 tons were sold and that figure fell to 45 tons the following year, to increase again to 47.9 tons in 2013 and only to drop down to 41.7 tons in 2014. There is currently no data available for 2015 and 2016.

 

Less intensive farming systems, which promote animal health and welfare need to be encouraged.

Sources:
European Medicines Agency as part of the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC) project.
The Alliance to Save our Antibiotics.

 

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