BBC One – Countryfile highlights the use of antibiotics in farming

The BBC series Countryfile episode “Allerton” (premiered February 6th) highlighted the use of antibiotics in farming – specifically the large quantities that are given as preventative medication and how the farming industry is looking to reduce this. This work is critical to reduce the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the environment, and the food chain.

Photo from BBC One – iPlayer

Over the four years between 2014 and 2018, the UK farming industry has halved the use of antibiotics as preventative medication – however more needs to be done to avoid the potentially devastating effects of AMR on environmental, animal and human health. You can read more about AMR – and it’s effects- in this recent blog post.

AMR Facts:

  • AMR is a process where bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics.
  • AMR can occur through people not completing a full course of antibiotics, and be spread through human contact. It can also occur in animals that receive antibiotics, and be spread through animal contact.
  • AMR can also occur in the environment (for example) through the presence of antibiotic compounds in wastewaters, agricultural waste, and surface waters, which increase the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance genes in bacterial communities (leading to AMR).
  • AMR is impacting healthcare around the world. It is making infections harder to treat, resulting in routine procedures such as hip replacements and caesarean sections becoming more risky and harder to recover from.
  • Without action, AMR could cause up to 10 million deaths a year by 2050.

The EU introduced a ban on the use of preventative antibiotic practice on the 28th January 2022.  However, sources show that 70% of antibiotics in UK farming are uses in preventative medication. The UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is planning to issue a consultation on this practise in 2022.

According to Healthcare Without Harm’s report “Veterinary Medicine in European food production“, metabolites and up to 90% of the non-degraded active ingredients can be excreted by animals. This indicates that there are further unknowns and risks related to this widespread use of antibiotics in farming, and other sectors.

The Allerton Countryfile can be watched online through this link:

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