FOUR PAWS, the world animal welfare organization, publishes a guidance document to help governments comply with the new regulations.
– On January 28, 2022, rules restricting the use of veterinary antimicrobials began to be applied across the European Union (EU). This will prohibit the routine use of antibiotics and limit preventive use to exceptional treatments of individual animals.
Intensive farming depends on the systematic use of antibiotics that are often given to groups of animals in their feed or water, even though many animals show no signs of disease. Stressed animals are kept in unsanitary, cramped conditions without fresh air or sunlight, the same precursors to zoonotic outbreaks that can cause pandemics. Antibiotics are also administered to reduce disease in animals resulting from cruel practices such as early weaning.
The Veterinary Medicines Regulation imposes new restrictions on the use of antibiotics in the agricultural sector and prohibits the use of antibiotics to compensate for poor hygiene, inadequate husbandry, lack of care or mismanagement of the operation.
Accounting for 70% of global use, the inappropriate use of antibiotics by the livestock industry is driving the global health crisis of antimicrobial resistance.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has a direct impact on human and animal health. Antimicrobial resistance is estimated to be responsible for around 33,000 deaths per year in the EU and costs EU Member States €1.5 billion per year in healthcare costs and lost productivity .
FOUR PAWS, together with veterinary and legal experts, has created a guidance document to help decision-makers implement the measures needed to improve animal welfare on European farms in order to reduce the use of antibiotics, fight antimicrobial resistance and align with new EU regulations. One thing to keep in mind is that all efforts to improve animal husbandry are aimed at preparing for the review of animal welfare legislation announced by the European Commission.
“A significant reduction in the unnecessary use of antibiotics in agriculture is long overdue. For too long they have supported an unsustainable system that is all about getting animals to slaughter as quickly as possible and starting the process over. We need to address the root causes that make antibiotic treatments necessary: the conditions in which animals are raised and our demand for cheap meat.
Implementing higher welfare measures, such as breeding slower-growing traditional breeds, will help farmers ensure that their animals are healthy with stronger immune systems, which will make them less prone to infections requiring antibiotic treatment. At the same time, the transition to agriculture with high levels of animal welfare can only be achieved with a transition to plant-based diets that relieve the pressure of intensive agriculture on our environment and are essential to mitigate the climate crisis. Ultimately, to protect human health, we must rethink and address the relationship between humans, animals and the environment."
Sophie Aylmer, Farm Animal Policy and Nutrition Manager for FOUR PAWS