Antibiotics are the silver bullet for killing bacteria, right? Well that may have been the case, as little as a few years ago, but is not so true now.
Why has our most important medical advancement become less, and much so, powerful than it has been before.
Most people think of antibiotics as something we take when we are sick. Most would not realise that much less than half of the antibiotics used in today’s society are actually used by humans.
The vast majority of antibiotics used today are placed into animal feed to maintain health for cattle, pigs, poultry and other livestock. They are used to prevent these animals from getting sick and keep the mortality rate low in livestock. If an animal in a feedlot gets sick and dies, the farmer loses that animal and the illness can also affect others and that reduces the profit of that business. So antibiotics are used to keep the bacteria under control and stop illness.
On top of this as humans, we have taken antibiotics in the past when not really required.
As a result, due to excessive overuse and the development of resistance, the antibiotics we rely on to stop us from being sick are no longer having the same effect on the bacteria they were designed to kill.
We have created our own problem and it has authorities worldwide terrified, as there are still no practical easy to source alternatives which can be used on a large scale.
As with many things in the past, New Zealand is once again stepping onto the world stage and saying NO.
The recent announcement by the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA)that by 2030 New Zealand will not be using antibiotics in the care of animals is the first time a country has stepped up and made that decision.
NZVA President Dr Steve Merchant said; “By 2030 New Zealand Inc will not need antibiotics for the maintenance of animal health and wellness. Given the wide acceptance that the future for antibiotics is limited, and the close links between animals, humans and the environment we share, achieving this goal is essential. With sharply increasing levels of resistance to antibiotics worldwide, we want animals and, by extension, humans to enter the ‘post-antibiotic’ era as safely as possible.”
It will mean that the use of antibiotics in animal feed will no longer be happening in that country as of 2030. Antibiotics will obviously still be used for illness of animals, as well as humans.
It is going to be a big job, first finding suitable alternatives and then getting all the involved parties on board. But the country has made the first and gigantically important step of committing to it. It will be interesting to see how many others join New Zealand in this commitment.
New Zealand already has no use of antibiotics in aquaculture, has little or no feedlots, and is the third lowest user of antibiotics on animals in the world. So it will be easier for them than for most other countries.
Rachelle Williams, The Green Food Safety Coach.