Broiler chickens are given antibiotics every four days

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Antibiotics in factory farming can cause drug resistance

Antibiotics are just as much a part of factory farming as overcrowded fattening systems and animals tortured to death. According to a study, broilers in particular are often given antibiotics. Scientists from the Hanover University of Veterinary Medicine Foundation and the University of Leipzig have examined antibiotic consumption in livestock farming and have come to frightening results.

On average, broilers receive antibiotics on ten of 39 days of life. As part of the "VetCAb" (Veterinary Consumption of Antibiotics) project, the researchers at the Hanover University of Veterinary Medicine Foundation and the University of Leipzig, in collaboration with the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, have seen antibiotic consumption from over 2000 Livestock husbandry recorded and evaluated for 2011. They examined which antibiotics were administered to which animal species and how often, including broilers, pigs and cattle among the animals, and the evaluation showed that the use of antibiotics fluctuated widely between the animal species On average, broilers are given antibiotics on ten of their 39 days of life, and in pig breeding such medications are administered on average over 115 days of fattening, and about one in three animals in calves receive antibiotics for three days a year.

The reason for the massive use of antibiotics in broilers could be explained by the way the animals are kept, says Professor Dr. Lothar Kreienbrock from the Institute for Biometry, Epidemiology and Information Processing at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover. A classic poultry farm has several thousand animals. If one animal falls ill, all the others could become infected in a short time. Neither in pig fattening nor in cattle breeding would so many animals be kept together. Accordingly, the risk of infection is lower, explains the expert.

"The average values ​​determined in VetCAb are the first orientation values ​​for the antibiotic treatment of farm animals in Germany and still need to be evaluated in more detail," report Kreienbrock and his colleague Professor Dr. Walther Honscha from the Institute for Pharmacology, Pharmacy and Toxicology at the University of Leipzig. " In the future, further data will have to be collected in order to be able to estimate whether this use is constant or whether trends are developing towards a lower use ", the researchers continued.

Antibiotics in factory farming can also harm people. "Valid data on antibiotic consumption and the spread of resistance are of particular importance for risk assessment," explains Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. "The use of antibiotics must then be limited to the therapeutically absolutely necessary level through targeted measures."

In factory farming, antibiotics are used not only for medical reasons, but rather to increase growth, so that the fattening time of the animals is reduced. Such use of medication has been banned across the EU since 2006. If pathogens come into constant contact with antibiotics, resistance can easily develop if the medication is administered only for a short time and in this way does not kill all pathogens. As a result, multi-resistant germs develop, which humans ingest along with traces of antibiotics when eating the contaminated meat. In the worst case, an antibiotic is no longer effective for a serious illness.

On June 26, 2013, the mediation committee of the Bundestag and Bundesrat therefore decided to amend the Medicinal Products Act (AMG). “With the amendment to the Medicines Act, we can significantly reduce the amount of antibiotics used in animal husbandry within a few years. The responsible surveillance authorities in the federal states are to be given significantly more control powers. The exchange between the authorities is improved, the federal states can use a nationwide database in the future. This creates transparency about the use of antibiotics in fattening farms, ”said Federal Minister Ilse Aigner. It remains to be seen whether the change in the law will actually bring about a significant reduction in the use of antibiotics. As long as meat is offered at the dumping price, it is highly unlikely that species-appropriate husbandry conditions, which are also associated with higher costs, will prevail. (ag)

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