Stop using antibiotics in healthy animals, WHO urges farmers

LONDON/CHICAGO, Nov 7 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization urged farmers on Tuesday to stop using antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals because the practice fuels dangerous drug-resistant superbug infections in people.

Describing a lack of effective antibiotics for humans as “a security threat” on a par with “a sudden and deadly disease outbreak”, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “strong and sustained action across all sectors” was vital to turn back the tide of resistance and “keep the world safe.”

The WHO “strongly recommends an overall reduction in the use of all classes of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals, including complete restriction of these antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention without diagnosis,” the United Nations agency said in a statement.

Any use of antibiotics promotes the development and spread of so-called superbugs, multidrug-resistant infections that can evade the medicines designed to kill them.

According to the WHO’s statement, in some countries around 80 percent of total consumption of medically important antibiotics is in the animal sector. They are largely used in healthy animals to stop them getting sick and to speed up their growth.

The WHO said such use should be completely halted.

It said in sick animals, wherever possible, tests should first be conducted to determine the most effective and prudent antibiotic to treat their specific illness.

The WHO’s new guidelines “illustrate the degree to which our regulators and large food animal producers are falling short,” said Cameron Harsh, a senior manager for the Center for Food Safety, a U.S. advocacy group.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that medically important antibiotics should not be used for growth promotion in animals.

“The recommendations erroneously conflate disease prevention with growth promotion in animals,” Chavonda Jacobs-Young, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s acting chief scientist, said in a statement.

In the United States, Tyson Foods Inc has stopped using antibiotics to produce its retail line of chicken. Perdue Farms, a competitor, said it eliminated the routine use of antibiotics in chicken last year.

Sanderson Farms Inc, the third largest U.S. poultry producer, is the only large U.S. chicken producer that has not made a commitment to limit its use of medically important antibiotics.

The company had no immediate comment on Tuesday.

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  • Denise

    Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of life – in farming. Free range chickens and range fed cattle are doing very well and it is such a relief for consumers who want to shop responsibily.
    But then we have the factory hog industry….who are being dragged along, changing only when forced to and squealing all the way. They just don’t seem to get it!
    Consumers want to buy meat from animals that have been humanely raised.
    I know the swine industry exports well over ninety percent of their pork to other countries, so why should they care. And they don’t seem to care about their neighbours putting up with odors and unhealthy air quality. They deny environmental problems caused by hog slurry lagoons and too much waste.
    Maybe now it the time to get back to raising these unfortunate creatures in a responsible manner and closer to what nature intended.
    We all know what animals need to be healthy and cut down on disease. Now that the hog producers can’t use antibiotics to keep diseases at bay, maybe just maybe , they”ll cut a hole in the box, they are stuck in, and look outside for better ways
    Ways that included animals’ access to the fresh air,sunshine, straw, non -GMO feed. A little more work but now that they won’t be able to use antibiotics ,as a crutch, I don’t see any other choice, unless they enjoy hauling away piles of dead pigs and cleaning up diseased sites as they do now..
    Even when they were using antibiotics,excessively, they were still running into problems with epidemics of PEDv, PRRS, etc. and diseases that infect humans like swine flu and MRSA.
    It’s time to get real.

    • bufford54

      And maybe we should all get naked and live in the garden of eden again

      • richard

        …..or we could just get smart and live in the garden of eatin…..where people take responsibility for their personal well being through nutrient dense toxin free food…. I mean why be dumb, depressed and agitated when you can be happy, smart and tranquil?

        • ed


      • Harold

        Maybe you should go ahead and do just that. Find out if any pigs were sick in that garden. I’m sure that Cargill would be among the first to be kicked out. Ask the garden keeper.

      • ed

        Now you are being rediculous.

    • Monkeeworks

      When I worked on a hog farm we used antibiotics only when we had to. It is expensive and we needed to save every penny we could. Are you suggesting a sick animal be deprived of proper care? Have you ever been to a ‘big’ hog production farm? I don’t think so.

      • Denise

        No, I’m not. If an animal is sick from a bacterial infection, give it antibiotics. No animal should suffer needlessly. Antibiotics don’t help if it is a virus, though. PED is a virus. Big problem.
        Viruses are hard to control. They never go away. They just hide out until ideal conditions are present and then out they come. Closing animals,or people for that matter, into a small crowded spaces, with no access to the outdoors, is a recipe for disaster. It just creates the prime conditons for diseases to spread quickly and morph into more virulent strains. Why do you think they send people home from hospitals as quickly as they do nowadays?
        They are doing the opposite of what they should be doing to maintain healthy conditions for the animals. This a bad situation, made worse by NOT allowing these animals outside for awhile, everyday, weather permitting. Sunshine on their bodies and fresh air in their lungs are the best ways to prevent the spread of disease and maintain good health.
        I know the hog producers will say it won’t work ,in this climate , because of winter conditions but pigs are not stupid. If it’s too cold out, they will come indoors.
        Too expensive and too much work? What’s the alternative? A barn full of sick and dying animals or a little more work with the animals? More enjoyable and healthier working conditons for the staff!
        These building could be altered to allow the pigs to move from indoor pens to outdoor pens, if the will was there to try it!
        “You’re going the wrong way!!!”is a memorable line in a movie where the guy is driving his car on the wrong side of the highway. The same can be said about factory hog production. Closing in and isolating the pigs destroy their immune systems and weaken their ability to fight off ANY sort of germs. You’re creating a breed of hogs that cannot exist in the real world. We may as well eat pork created in test tubes.
        I haven’t been inside a factory hog building,but I live near some. The sickening, unnatural smell of closed- in factory hogs travels for miles when they vent the barns. Do you think they would let me in?

      • ed

        Thing is, we would be much better off without them.

    • ed

      Yep. It is coming, but is slow. Consumers are realy the driver on this.

  • richard

    Funny. some of us including immunologists were suggesting this ten years ago……but of course we were just the “anti-science” crowd…..the luddites….the wacktivists??? When the smoke clears on this one, antibiotics as a growth promoter will go down in history with the likes of feeding bovine spinal tissue to bovines (BSE), or feeding poultry excrement to poultry (salmonella)…. both of which were approved with the blessing of Science (Inc.) Are we living on the planet of the apes?

    • ed

      When the smoke clears on “ALL” ones actually. Wacktivists are almost always on the more honest edge of actual science and science gets weird if it is used against humanity and as a rescripted profit centre. It is sad but predictable. That damn human greed thing again.

      • richard

        The “Whacktivists” are simply slapping the stupefied upside the head…..I mean why be a lemming when you have the God given ability to actually think for yourself?

        • ed


  • old grouchy

    Interesting that – – – there is no mention of overuse or non-compliance by humans and its effects on antibiotic resistance. In fact what I have been able to find suggests that this is perhaps the major contributing factor to our, that is human, development of antibiotic resistance.
    The situation is actually quite dire to where it may be less than 10 years to where there may be almost no effectiveness from our most common antibiotics. But there still is no money for research into new antibiotics – – – I think that this pharmaceutical segment isn’t quite lucrative enough. Mayhap all medications should cast north of $100 per day just so that big pharma could actually make enough profit.
    Its also fascinating how many articles are showing up here at WP with no attributed author. Funny wouldn’t you think?

    • OG – all our stories typically have an author listed. Reuters News Service is the author of this story. You can see that (and EVERY byline) immediately beneath the headline.

      Is that the difference you’re pointing out? That “Reuters News Service” is not the same as, to use our WInnipeg-based reporter as an example, “Ed White?”

      I would be interested to see an example of an article you’ve found on our site that has no author listed.

      Paul – WP web editor

  • Dr

    Hmmm just like everything else we use it for 30+ years and it’s fine then suddenly it’s not fine. This is a direct product of the “Walmartization” of products. For the most part it’s not the producers but the regulators and the retailers squeezing the primary producer on price. Smarten up people. When we all get cancer the drug companies benefit. Well, at least the lobbying and protests have worked. Big ag is a steam roller and a dead end.

    Here is a rhetorical question;

    How many people can farm half of the earth under big ag?

    The answer is; 2

    Is that the road we want to head down??

    • ed


  • ed

    And with good reason, no doubt.


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