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16.10.2020 Agriculture

Concerns On AMR, Superbugs And Pandemics From Farm Animals On The Rise

By Evans Kipkorir
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A public poll released by World Animal Protection following a global survey to understand people’s knowledge and attitudes towards antibiotic use, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and pandemic risk from farm animals, shows that 83% of the people surveyed across 15 countries including Kenya are concerned that the next pandemic could originate from farm animals. The poll also shows that 88% of the respondents were concerned about the possibility of antibiotic resistant organism (Superbugs) coming from farm animals due to overuse of antibiotics in farm animals.

Dr. Victor Yamo, the Farming Campaigns Manager at World Animal Protection saysWe decided to release the poll results a day to the 75th World Food Day celebrations whose theme is Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together. because food is the essence of life and preserving access to safe and nutritious food will continue to be an essential part of the response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.”

The poll further revealed widespread lack of knowledge of the use of antibiotics in farm animals with close to 82% of the respondents under-estimating the amount of the world’s antibiotics that are used on farm animals. Almost three-quarters of the world’s antibiotics are used in intensively farmed animals[1] where the antibiotics are used to prop-up low-welfare practices such as the raising of fast-growing meat chickens and routine mutilation of piglets. These animals are all housed in stressful, cramped conditions that provide the perfect breeding ground for the spread of infection and emergence of disease.

Another report also released by World Animal Protection in mid-September 2020 found that superbugs are emerging on farms from antibiotic overuse, and those Superbugs are entering our food chain and our environment. This is a risky business - when superbugs are passed from animals to people, they make us less able to fight disease. Currently, 700,000 people die each year from infections that cannot be treated by antimicrobials and by 2050, this is expected to rise to 10 million people each year.[2]

Dr. Victor Yamo further adds that “In a moment like this when we are planning the Covid-19 recovery journey, it is more important than ever to recognize the need to be careful on what we consume – especially animal products from intensive farming systems. Therefore we cannot ignore the contribution that the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals is having on the rise in antibiotic resistance – it is a ticking timebomb that could make the current public health crisis even worse if antibiotics are ineffective in treating secondary infections.”

The poll recognizes that the concerns are being driven by personal reasons, for example, 70% of the respondents were concerned about the adverse effects of ‘Superbugs’ to their health while 66% were concerned with the impact of the superbugs contaminating meat. 71% of the respondents think that Producers need to do more to manage the rise in antibiotic resistance in farm animals compared to 69% who believe government need to do more. Over 82% of the respondents believe that Producers should stop using antibiotics for growth promotion although 85% supported the use of antibiotics to treat sick farm animals.

African governments need to enact minimum farm animal welfare laws and standards. The governments also need to monitor and report on antibiotic use in farm animals and restrict the use of antibiotics in farm animals unless for treatment of sick animals. Retailers and other food outlets should be setting the bar far higher to ensure the animals in their supply chains are treated well, and antibiotics are used responsibly in farming.

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