A once in a lifetime opportunity

This is about something which may happen only once-in-your-lifetime, when, after years of struggle, a chance for you to help make big and desperately important changes comes along. Politicians rarely think beyond the next election, many businesses worry about quarterly results, and the media tend to focus on the immediate – but campaigning groups like the Soil Association work to totally different time scales. Together with our members we often campaign for decades for what we know is right, persevering until real change becomes possible. We are facing one of these moments now. After years of our campaigning, the Government and regulators have finally accepted that farm antibiotic use needs to be cut significantly, but we now need to make sure that this is achieved through kinder farming methods which improve the health and welfare of farm animals. Thanks to your support, we have been working to stop the overuse of antibiotics in farming for over 20 years, and we have had moments of real impact. We’ve seen the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of farm animals banned in Europe, advertising of antibiotics direct to farmers banned, and the European Parliament vote for a ban on routine preventative use of antibiotics. We co-founded the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics which increased our influence in the UK and the EU. But in all that time, we have faced representatives of industrial farming, drug companies and Government regulators who have claimed that the use of antibiotics in farming is hardly contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance when people get sick. But even this is now changing, as a Government-commissioned report recently concluded that there is “compelling” evidence that antibiotic resistance does transfer from farm animals to humans via food and through the environment. Both the World Health Organization and the European Food Safety Authority agree.

We urgently need to reduce antibiotics in farming

45 % Did you know that farm animals account for about 45% of antibiotic use in the UK?
10 seconds If we don't act now, by 2050 antibiotic resistance could kill a human once every ten seconds
20 £ Just £20 could bring farmers together for a round-table discussion on practical steps to cut antibiotics use

You are needed more than ever

We have played a crucial part in getting this far. The level of agreement is now so great that industrial livestock farmers and the drug companies have been unable to ignore it. They agree that antibiotic use in farming must be cut, and the British poultry industry has already taken some positive steps in line with our campaign demands. But the job is only half done – and you are needed more than ever. Intensive livestock farmers and the drug industry are still in denial about how to solve the problem. They claim that how we keep, treat and feed farm animals has nothing to do with how often they get sick, and how many antibiotics they need. This is wrong.

We need to change the system

Your passion to see animals live the best lives they can is ours too. As organic farmers, we know that our chickens, sheep, pigs and cows lead healthy lives, rarely get sick, and hardly need treating with antibiotics. For example, under organic standards a piglet stays with its mother for at least 40 days. We never give routine antibiotics to piglets when they are weaned. But if piglets are removed from their mum when they are as young as 21 days old, far too young, this causes stress and they frequently get diarrhoea. This happens on most industrial pig farms, and routine treatment with antibiotics is usually unavoidable.

Our chance to radically improve animal welfare hangs in the balance

The crisis of antibiotic resistance is a crucial moment to press for radical improvements in animal welfare, because it will place unprecedented political pressure on farmers and industry to change farming systems where pigs and poultry are kept indoors, in huge groups, without access to the sun, grass, soil and natural diets. Yet it is an opportunity that hangs in the balance. Experience from other countries shows that tighter regulation can lead to farmers reducing antibiotic use by making their intensive indoor systems more sterile, without making improvements to animal welfare. This takes us no closer to our vision of a good life for all farm animals. However, far lower levels of antibiotic use can be achieved in extensive systems, where the way that farmers look after their animals focuses on improving animal health and welfare.

We have to make the case for high welfare

Our urgent job now is to make the case to the farming industry, Government and supermarkets for high welfare, sustainable systems and the opportunity they present to bring about immediate and dramatic reductions in antibiotic use. Like you, we want all farm animals to feel the sun on their backs, for cattle to graze grass, for pigs to make nests of straw to give birth, and for chickens to bathe in the dust outside and peck at insects and worms on grass fields. We need your help so we can ramp up our work with all farmers, not just organic ones, to make this vision a reality. This is your chance to improve the lives of millions of farm animals – and to save antibiotics so that we can continue to use them when we really need to, whether for sick animals or people. Please help if you can. By funding more campaigning, together we can change the lives of millions of farm animals for the better.

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Your ongoing support will prevent many animals from living a miserable, cramped existence in a factory farm. By joining today, we can prevent a human health disaster and continue to improve the lives of millions of farm animals.

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