Farmers Must Stop Using Antibiotics on Livestock, Warns WHO

Farmers Must Stop Using Antibiotics on Livestock, Warns WHO

New warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) caution that farmers must stop using antibiotics on animals reared for food due to serious human health risks. The WHO relied upon a recent study published in The Lancet Planetary Health[1] to validate their new guidelines. This research revealed that limiting antibiotic use on farms reduced antibiotic-resistant bacteria up to 39% in farm animals – which has direct causal links to human health.

WHO guidelines suggest farms stop using antibiotics on animals

Specifically, the WHO reported that 80% of antibiotic use occurs in farm animals (versus humans). The challenge occurs when antibiotic-treated animals develop resistance to drugs and then pass those antibiotic-resistant diseases on to humans – mainly through food.

What do the new guidelines suggest specifically? Farmers should cease routine use of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease worldwide. While the enforcement of these guidelines is inevitably up to national governments, the WHO’s warning is dire. Megafarms are on the rise around the globe. Since entire herds – hundreds of animals – are treated simultaneously, these farms possess sickening antibiotic resistance that then afflicts humans.

Dr. Clare Chandler, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, offered: “This is a welcome set of recommendations from WHO. It will be a challenge for producers to follow these recommendations to reduce antibiotic use, but possible for larger scale producers with good biosecurity.” Meaning, scaling back on — or cleaning up — large-scale feedlots, whose unclean conditions demand rampant use of antibiotics. So while governments work to heed WHO’s warnings, there are steps you can take to get clean, antibiotic-free meat.

What you can do to get the healthiest meat

First, understand that meat product is not bad for the animals and environment – or us – when it’s raised and processed appropriately. Sustainable agriculture can address environmental and human health harms of industrial agriculture[2].

Next get closer to your food sources. Purchase a whole cow with a group of family and friends, if that is a possibility for you (a big freezer is a necessity). Talk to the farmer at your local farmers’ market to ensure his/her meat is up-to-snuff (grass-fed, grass-finished meat typically implies a smaller-scale farm that’s likely to use fewer antibiotics). If you don’t live in close proximity to a local farm, purchase the best meat you can find. You may wish to check out Aldi, Alderspring, and Costco.