Health: Chicken full of antibiotics

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Antibiotics are used in large numbers when raising chickens. In addition to animal rights and environmental protection issues, antibiotic resistance also plays an important role. The Greens are calling for stricter controls and rules for the use of medicines in the poultry industry.

(10/25/2010) Low-fat, inexpensive and previously spared scandals like BSE, chicken meat is considered by many Germans to be the supposedly healthy alternative. As a result, consumption has risen sharply in recent years. But the dark side, especially in the production of chicken, is also coming to light more and more. The Lower Saxony Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed to the radio station NDR Info that the fatteners use more and more antibiotics in conventional chicken farming. The Lower Saxony state parliamentary group of the Greens therefore demands stricter rules and controls from the state government.

24 animals per square meter. Broiler chickens live for about a month before they end up in the slaughterhouse. Most of these short lives in Germany begin and end in the state of Lower Saxony. In the state with the highest poultry density there are more than half of all chicken fattening farms in Germany. In order to meet the increasing needs of consumers, there is increasing utilization of the production facilities. The so-called stocking density of broilers is currently on average 39 kg or around 24 animals per square meter. Due to the crowds in the fattening farms, however, the risk of illness increases, so that breeders increasingly use antibiotics. The Lower Saxony Ministry of Agriculture told NDR Info that an average of 1.7 antibiotic treatments were used per fattening pass ten years ago, today it is around 2.3 treatments.

Antibiotic use is increasing This gives consumer advocates and the politicians of the opposition particularly to think, since the fatteners have not been allowed to feed antibiotics as growth promoters since 2006, so that the number of days of treatment could be expected to decrease. Antibiotics can only be prescribed by the veterinarian for the treatment of diseases, not provisionally and certainly not to promote growth. Nevertheless, the consumption of antibiotics is steadily increasing. The breeders apparently use all possibilities that can justify the administration of antibiotics. For example, if an animal is sick, all chickens are given antibiotics in the corresponding fattening farm. However, usually tens of thousands of animals live in a stable. The veterinarian Rupert Ebner told NDR Info: "Although there is a ban on antibiotics as growth promoters, more antibiotics are still given - this is absurd and dangerous for people".

Use of medicines in the rearing of chickens the rule According to Heidemarie Helmsmüller, head of the Department of Consumer Protection and Animal Health at the Lower Saxony Ministry of Agriculture, chickens in factory farming would often not survive until the end of their fattening period without the use of antibiotics, so that the use of the agent in practice. The former head of the Veterinary Office in Cloppenburg, Hermann Focke, is particularly critical of the information provided by the Ministry regarding antibiotic treatment days. As in human medicine, the animals are usually treated with antibiotics for several days, although this usually takes much more than two days. Focke, taking into account information from the ministry, which was published in a veterinary journal, assumes that the actual number of antibiotic treatment days is significantly higher. Three to six antibiotic treatments with a correspondingly high number of treatment days are not uncommon. "That is why we can assume that broilers often receive antibiotics for around two thirds of their life - they only live for 32 days," emphasized Hermann Focke.

Exemption for the poultry industry Exact figures on the total amount of medication dispensed in Germany are not yet available and the poultry industry has probably argued against the introduction of medication delivery according to zip code regions for good reason. Because it would be relatively clear which companies use how much antibiotics and whether the legal requirements are complied with. From 2012, according to the federal ordinance, a file should be recorded in which zip code region and how many medications are delivered. However, an exception was made for the poultry industry because of data protection concerns, according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. Critics, however, clearly see the result of intensive lobbying by the poultry industry towards the Lower Saxony state government. The lack of distance between government officials and poultry farmers has been sharply criticized by the opposition in the past.

Danger: Formation of resistance Now several veterinarians have joined these critical voices towards NDR Info and questioned the reason for the exemption. Rupert Ebner said: "The fact that there should be no broken down data in the poultry industry is a scandal". He assumes that the poultry industry has put a lot of pressure on politicians to move the decision in the current direction. Ms. Helmsmüller also said from the Ministry of Agriculture that detailed figures were welcomed, not least from the point of view of consumer protection, because the careless use of antibiotics can lead to pathogens becoming resistant, ie the means are ineffective in an emergency.

Greens call for clarification As a result of the NDR Info reporting, the state parliamentary group of the Greens called on the government of Lower Saxony to tighten up the controls and rules for the use of medicines in the poultry industry. "The apparently uncontrolled increase in the use of antibiotics and the associated health risks for consumers are a scandal," said Christian Meyer, agricultural expert for the Greens, and added that it would be unacceptable for people to get more antibiotic-resistant chemical broilers on their plates instead of healthy meat.

In addition, his party was irritated by a possible interference by the Lower Saxony state government on the planned federal regulation in the interests of poultry farmers. Therefore, the Greens promptly requested clarification from the state government with a small request. With the zip code breakdown, "one could (could) have seen very quickly in the strongholds of Emsland and Cloppenburg-Vechta whether excessive promoters were being illegally given there," an exception to the regulation is accordingly annoying in his view, the green agricultural expert Meyer said. In his party's opinion, it needs to be clarified whether and in what way Lower Saxony influenced this exemption for the poultry industry. "In previous surveys, the state claimed that there was no data on the extent of medication use. Now new numbers appear. If it was deliberately covered up and veiled in the spirit of the poultry lobby in order to enforce the controversial chicken highways and hundreds of animal factories, that would be scandalous! "Emphasized Meyer. (Fp, 25.10.2010)

Also read:
Alternatives to antibiotics from naturopathy
Doctors often prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily
Individual dosing of antibiotics required
Resistant bacteria spread

Image: Nico Lubaczowski /

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