Skip to main content

To: Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health

Please save our antibiotics

Please save our antibiotics

Human health is being put at risk by intensive livestock farming systems - which rely on routinely giving animals antibiotics, often when no disease is present, just to ensure they survive the squalid, overcrowded, and stressful conditions in which they are kept.

This leads to the development of antimicrobial resistance, which can then pass to humans.

Please follow the lead of European countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands, which are putting human health first, and ban or phase out the routine preventative use of antibiotics in farming.

Why is this important?

The antimicrobial resistance crisis, caused mainly by overuse in human medicine, but also in farming, is so serious that the Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies is giving it the same risk status as terrorism.

She is warning that a post-antibiotic era is approaching, in which common infections will again kill, and routine operations such as hip replacements will become too risky to carry out. Cancer treatment will no longer be possible. The World Health Organisation has called it a major global threat to public health.

Farm animals must be kept in more humane, disease-free conditions.

Here's some more information:

1. The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics is an alliance of health, medical, environmental and animal welfare groups working to stop the over-use of antibiotics in animal farming. It was founded by the Soil Association, Compassion in World Farming, and Sustain in 2009, and is supported by the Jeremy Coller Foundation. Its vision is a world in which human and animal health and well-being are protected by food and farming systems that do not rely routinely on antibiotics and related drugs.

2. The extent to which antimicrobial resistance (AMR) originating in farm animals is contributing to antimicrobial resistance in humans is disputed by some, but the World Health Organisation has said (2011):

'Resistance [in the foodborne zoonotic bacteria salmonella and campylobacter] is clearly linked to antibiotic use in food animals, and foodborne diseases caused by such resistant bacteria are well documented in people. Of special concern is resistance to so-called critically important antibiotics for human medicine. ... Antibiotic resistance ... has been associated with more frequent and longer hospitalization, longer illness, a higher risk of invasive infection and a twofold increase in the risk of death ...'

and the European Food Safety Authority has said (2008):

'Resistant [bacteria] involved in human disease are mostly spread through foods. With regards to salmonella, contaminated poultry meat, eggs, pork and beef are prominent in this regard. For campylobacter, contaminated poultry meat is prominent. Cattle are a major reservoir for E coli [verotoxigenic Escherichia coli] and resistant strains may colonize humans via contaminated meat of bovine origin more commonly than from other foods. Animal-derived products remain a potential source of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Food-associated MRSA, therefore, may be an emerging problem.'

3. Farm use of antibiotics which are critically important in human medicine continues to increase, and is at a record high, whereas there have been sharp falls in the use of these antibiotics in human medicine in recent years due to new guidelines being introduced and applied.

4. Per unit of livestock, the overall use of antibiotics in British pig and poultry is three to five times higher than in the five Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

5. The ban on antibiotic growth promoters has failed to reduce overall antibiotic use, as farmers can still use many of the same antibiotics in feed or water for ‘disease prevention’. For example, in the early 1970s, the UK banned the use of tetracycline antibiotics and penicillin as growth promoters. Since then, the total farm use of tetracyclines has increased nearly 10-fold and that of penicillin-type antibiotics has increased nearly 5-fold.

6. There is no evidence from published data showing that the preventative use of antibiotics on British farms is reducing, as claimed by Minister George Eustice in his oral evidence to the Science and Technology Select Committee on 12th March 2014. Total antibiotic use in animals is slightly higher than five years ago, despite falls in the numbers of animals.

7. Of course, no one wants to see a sick animal left untreated. We support the use of antibiotics to treat illnesses in animals. But what we must stop is the routine use of antibiotics to compensate for inhumane farming practices.


Reasons for signing

  • If livestock intended for the food chain cannot be raised in a disease free environment then the conditions of their husbandry are faulty. Covering up unsuitable farming methods by mass medication can never be right. The only exception is vaccination.
  • I watched a programme which demonstrated the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria over a few days. It is truly frightening the excelled rate at which bacteria overcome the most frequently used antibiotics. In some areas of India where antibiotics have been freely available to anyone with any cause for health complaint the resistance to infection is now extremely poor with the rise of multi drug resistant strains of bacteria. The World Health Organisation (WHO) have raised concerns .
  • Intense factory farming does not work.


2014-07-02 18:05:52 +0100

20,000 signatures reached

2014-06-26 21:46:07 +0100

10,000 signatures reached

2014-06-26 15:49:54 +0100

5,000 signatures reached

2014-06-26 13:38:39 +0100

1,000 signatures reached

2014-06-26 12:53:16 +0100

500 signatures reached

2014-06-26 12:26:02 +0100

100 signatures reached

2014-06-26 12:23:17 +0100

50 signatures reached

2014-06-26 12:21:01 +0100

25 signatures reached

2014-06-26 12:18:04 +0100

10 signatures reached