Recently, there has been a new surge of people becoming vegan – not eating animal products. Many people do it out of consideration for the animals.
But perhaps we should consider ourselves – and our own future.
We are reaping the Karma of our selfish greed for meat, meat, meat and more meat – and perhaps it IS time to indicate en mass, that the way we treat and eat animals, is not an option anymore.
Infections that were once easy to quash now threaten our lives. Doctors warn that routine procedures, such as caesareans, hip replacements and chemotherapy, could one day become impossible, due to the risk of exposing patients to deadly infection. Already, in the European Union alone, 25,000 people a year are killed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Yet our last defences – the rare drugs to which bacteria have not yet become immune – are being squandered with wild abandon. While most doctors seek to use them precisely and parsimoniously, some livestock farms literally slosh them around. They add them to the feed and water supplied to entire herds of cattle, pigs or poultry: not to treat illness, but to prevent it.
Or not even that. In the 1950s, farmers discovered that small quantities of antibiotics added to feed make animals grow faster. Using antibiotics as growth promoters – low doses routinely applied – is a perfect formula for generating bacterial resistance. Yet many countries continue to permit this reckless practice. The US Food and Drug Administration asks drug companies voluntarily to refrain from labelling antibiotics as growth promoters. But with a nod and a wink, it suggests they be rebranded for “new therapeutic indications”. Around 75% of the antibiotics used in the US are fed to farm animals. Our city is under siege, and we are knocking down our own defences.
The EU and the UK are no paragons. The Guardian has revealed that both pork and chicken sold here are infected with resistant superbugs. Outrageously, it is still legal in the UK to dose chickens with fluoroquinolones, powerful antibiotics that save many human lives: a practice even the US has banned.
But in other respects, the US, whose corporate livestock production looks more like HG Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau than anything you’d recognise as farming, makes our methods seem virtuous. Last week, the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics revealed that the US uses on average roughly five times as many antibiotics per animal as the UK does.
Why? Because the stack ‘em high, sell ‘em low model of farming there, in which vast numbers of animals are reared in appalling conditions in megafarms, cannot be sustained without mass medication. The animals are weaned so young, are so debilitated and so crowded that extreme methods are required to keep them alive and growing. The impacts are not confined to the US: when America sneezes, the world catches antibiotic-resistant Salmonella.
There’s an urgent need for a global ban on the mass treatment of livestock with antibiotics, and on any use of the antibiotics of last resort in farming. Tough as this is for the economics of megafarms, human life is more important. But the opposite is happening. The US government hopes to use trade treaties to break down the resistance of other nations to its farming practices. And the UK is at the top of its list.
But besides a ban on the mass treatment of animals with antibiotics, there is another way.
If we don’t buy, they can’t sell!
What about THAT?