Photo: Harsha Doriya/World Animal Protection

Antimicrobial resistance: how factory farming is destroying our planet

The health and well-being of animals, humans and our planet are interdependent. Poor animal health and welfare in intensive farming has a negative impact on food safety, our environment and the climate

Photo: Harsha Doriya/World Animal ProtectionPhoto: Harsha Doriya/World Animal Protection

Factory farming or intensive food animal farming is the intensive and confined farming of animals such as pigs, cows, and birds. These are industrial facilities that raise large numbers of animals, mostly indoors, under conditions designed to maximize production at minimum cost.

The suffering of billions of animals in such intensive farms around the world is too often ignored or considered separate from the great problems of our time: pandemics and the public health crisis; climate change and loss of biodiversity; food insecurity and malnutrition.

In reality, intensive agriculture exacerbates these global problems and causes immense cruelty to billions of animals.

Producing more than 50 billion factory-bred land animals each year to satisfy the growing demand for cheap meat requires using genetically uniform breeds of animals that are mashed together, creating an ideal breeding ground for diseases that can spread to humans.

As diseases pass from one species to another, they often become more contagious and cause more severe illness and death, resulting in global pandemics. Bird flu and swine flu are two key examples where new strains are constantly emerging from intensively farmed animals.

However, there is one addition to this list – antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which is overlooked among these big issues. A high concentration of factory animals in sterile environments leads to fighting, biting, competition for food, or general stress in high-density living.

Antibiotics are often used in feed or water in such situations at low levels. They alter gut bacteria and act as growth promoters or prevent disease in a herd.

Animals routinely receive antibiotics (usually only once: orally, feed, water) when painful procedures (mutilations) are performed in low welfare farms. There is plenty of scientific data showing how the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms leads to superbugs spreading to workers, the environment and the food chain.

India banned the use of colistin in livestock feed after researchers showed antimicrobial resistance in poultry.

Global livestock production continues to increase year on year as the industrialized model of livestock and fish production spreads to many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly in Asia, poultry representing an increasingly large share of meat production. globally.

The global livestock industry has grown to the point that farmed poultry accounts for 70% of all living birds, with wild birds accounting for only 30% of the world’s bird population.

Meat production is 470% higher in 2018 than it was 50 years ago. It went from 70 million tons to more than 330 million tons per year, thanks to industrialization. Fish farming also grew rapidly during this period, increasing 50-fold to over 100 million tonnes per year, from 2 million tonnes.

Industrial livestock systems are replacing traditional forms of animal production in many LMICs. This has direct impacts on livelihoods: the UN estimates that livestock contributes to the livelihoods of around 1.7 billion poor people and that 70% of those employed in the sector are women.

Traditional and nature-friendly forms of livestock keeping (e.g. pastoral or agro-pastoral systems) give people in LMICs access to livestock-derived foods that are an important source of nutrients, family income, transport , fuel and fertilizer (manure) for crops. production in mixed farms. As a result, the sector plays a major role in reducing poverty, improving resilience as well as addressing food insecurity and malnutrition.

Factory farms, characterized by substandard husbandry practices and poor animal welfare, drive the increased use of antimicrobials and are linked to the emergence of AMR alongside a range of pathogens zoonotic.

They diminish animal health, aggravate the human health crisis and contribute to the ecological crisis. Zoonotic pathogens and antimicrobial resistance are increasing as a direct result of the growth of factory farming systems and are one of the most significant threats to human health worldwide.

From zoonotic diseases, habitat destruction, public health devastation, antimicrobial resistance, known as antimicrobial resistance, to the most obvious problem of climate change, the intensive agriculture leads to the destruction of the planet and its living beings in several ways.

The health and well-being of animals, humans and our planet are interdependent. Poor animal health and welfare in intensive farming has a negative impact on food safety, our environment and our climate.

We should develop sustainable food systems by increasing the demand for plant-based foods, reducing dependence on farmed animals and making higher welfare production systems more feasible – with more space, fewer antibiotics, healthier growth and more natural environments.

We can transform our food system to be more sustainable and dramatically improve the overall health of animals and humans.

Harsha Doriya is Senior Campaigner, World Animal Protection India

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Down to earth

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