Farm animals consume one-third of all antibiotics in the UK and it is intensive farming systems that use drugs at unnecessarily high levels, putting human health at risk.
The more that antibiotics are used, the less effective they become. Many of the antibiotics you might get prescribed from the doctor are the same as those given to animals, and they are becoming less and less effective.
The routine use of antibiotics in intensive farming systems is driving this problem. Drugs are given to animals as a preventative measure - before they show signs of illness - to compensate for animals being housed in cramped, unsanitary conditions where infections spread fast.
Globally, it is predicted that 10 million could die every year from infections that were once easily treated by antibiotics. We face returning to a past era before antibiotics and our food system is driving this; we need an alternative.
Approaches to farming that focus on animal health and welfare do not need to depend on antibiotics.
Organic standards look to provide conditions where animals have freedom to roam, express their natural instincts and live in smaller groups.
Addressing the causes of infections and diseases – such as air quality – means that disease burdens are lower in organic systems, so there is less need for antibiotics. But when diseases do arise, antibiotics can be used, much like for us humans, they are life-saving drugs ready when we need them most.
We’re a founding member of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics.
We’re campaigning for UK and EU wide reductions in antibiotics use in farm animals.
We’re calling for the UK government to ban the routine preventative use of antibiotics in groups of entirely healthy farm animals.
Organic systems require that piglets stay with their mothers for at least the first 40 days of their life. This reduces the stress of separation, improves piglet survival rate and health of adult pigs. In a UK government study, non-organic pig farms used between 13-330 times more antibiotics than organic.
There are a number of "critically important" antibiotics that are restricted in Soil Association's higher standards. These antibiotics play a critical role in treating infections in humans and animals and if bacteria becomes resistant then the impact would be catastrophic.
We work throughout the farming sector to ensure that farm animals in all systems experience a good life. We campaign governments, improve farm assurance and engage farmers to support them to adapt and improve practice.
"Through the Innovative Farmers network, farmers, vets and researchers are investigating a new on farm test that can help them reduce antibiotics by quickly identifying what is causing mastitis."
We can reduce the need for antibiotics whilst preventing many animals from living in cramped, unsanitary conditions. Together, we can prevent a human-health disaster and continue to improve the lives of millions of farm animals.