The vegan market makes up at most 2% of the South African food market, hence 98% of people are eating animal protein and are ingesting antibiotics daily. Conventional animal protein production depends on the widespread use of antibiotics. 90% of antibiotics issued by the pharmaceutical companies are consumed by animals in the confinement feeding animal operations (CAFO) where almost all the meat you eat is produced.
There are two reasons for the (ab)use of antibiotics. The first is that in the 1950s it was discovered that continuous use of antibiotics promotes animal growth and the second is that because these animals live in their own excrement daily, they are under huge disease pressure. Routine antibiotics are used to prevent the outbreak of disease.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest threats facing humanity. Antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective as drug-resistance spreads globally leading to more difficult to treat infections and death. In a statement released by the WHO in 2017, it was recommended that farmers and the food industry stop using antibiotics routinely to promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals.
“As a regenerative livestock farmer, I know that if animals roam freely in uncrowded outdoor spaces and eat only grass, there is little need to administer antibiotics.” Says Angus McIntosh, owner of Farmer Angus.
Without knowing it, healthy people are consuming antibiotics daily. These are antibiotics that could be the last line, or one of limited treatments available to treat serious bacterial infections in humans. Without it, the number of people for whom treatment is failing or who die of infections will increase. Medical procedures, such as surgery, including caesarean sections or hip replacements, cancer chemotherapy, and organ transplantation, will become riskier.
More than 1.2 million people—and potentially millions more—are said to have died in 2019 as a direct result of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, according to a landmark study by the Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) Project published in The Lancet. Urgent action is needed to prevent a predicted 10 million deaths each year by 2050. It’s estimated that by 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.
Angus says there is a way consumers can protect themselves. “Know where your food comes from. Eat grass-fed and grass-finished beef as well as eggs. Egg producers do not administer routine antibiotics because they want to keep their hens alive for as long as possible and constant use of antibiotics weakens them.”
Some of the issues caused by the (ab)use of antibiotics can be found in the following links:
- Researchers in Georgia in the USA have discovered a gene that makes bacteria resistant to the most potent antibiotics. https://news.uga.edu/gene-discovered-in-georgia-water-a-possible-global-threat/
- The cost of antibiotic resistance https://www.drugtopics.com/view/pharmacists-battle-antibiotic-resistance-through-stewardship-and-technology
- Scientists are being forced to get more creative in combining various types of antibiotics to overcome the resistance. https://phys.org/news/2021-12-resistance-busting-antibiotic-combination-last-resort-antibiotics.html
Eating meat should not be your only source of protein, but when you do choose meat, choose a farmer that you can trust to produce beef that is good for your health and good for the environment. We are, after all, all farmers by proxy.
23 March 2022