ABC 7.30 report on antibiotic use in agriculture
A new report has found disturbingly high rates of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in chicken and pork samples from four Australian supermarkets: Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and IGA supermarkets.
The World Health Organisation lists anti-microbial resistance among the top 10 global threats to human health so the extent of these findings in meat available across four major supermarket chains is very concerning.
The growing issue of anti-microbial resistance is a consequence of a range of factors but over-use of antibiotics in intensive livestock production is a key contributor. In Australia, about 60% of antibiotic use occurs in animal farming - not to cure disease but to prevent it.
This speaks to the profound problems at the heart of the prevailing agricultural model.
The market place rewards scale and speed at a rate that is inconsistent with natural systems and requires intensive interventions that compromise landscape and animal health. So, the antibiotics are used to prevent the inevitable diseases that occur when you distort a natural system and, by the way, it turns out that antibiotics can also make animals grow faster which is a huge bonus! But, over-use of antibiotics results in the sort of anti-microbial resistance discovered in the supermarket meat samples and that causes big problems in human health down the line, when we find that our key weapons against bacterial infection are increasingly ineffective.
Given how precious antibiotics are and how few alternatives exist or are even in development, the fact that there isn't more regulation of antibiotic use and investigation into why this level of use is even necessary in agriculture is simply mystifying. Time for a regenerative revolution!
On Wednesday, ABC's 7.30 programme ran a story about the report, which was prepared by the University of Canberra and commissioned by Animals Australia. The story interviewed Feather and Bone as a butcher of antibiotic-free and ethically sourced meat, the authors of the report, an expert on superbugs from ANU and a representative from the Australian Chicken Meat Federation.