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What are Antibiotics?

In medicine, an antibiotic is a substance that kills or prevents bacteria from reproducing directly. Treatment or prevention of infections and infectious diseases is accomplished with antibiotics

What are Antimicrobials?

An antimicrobial substance kills or prevents the reproduction of microorganisms directly. The use of antimicrobials is aimed at preventing or treating infections or infectious diseases. Antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiprotozoals are all antimicrobials. An antibiotic is an antimicrobial, but an antimicrobial that does not affect bacteria is not an antibiotic.

Why are farm animals given antibiotics?

The use of antibiotics is intended to compensate for poor hygiene or inadequate husbandry. Antibiotics can be used as prophylactic medicines, or as treatments to prevent diseases. It involves administering a medicine to an animal (or a group of animals) before any clinical signs of infection are evident in order to prevent the occurrence of infection.

Also, antibiotics can be used as metaphylactics. It involves administering a medicinal product to a group of animals after a diagnosis of clinical disease. The disease has been established in part of the group. In order to treat the clinically ill animals and to limit the spread of the disease to animals in close contact or at risk antibiotics are administered.

What is the purpose of banning antibiotics?

Approximately 3,500 human deaths occur worldwide each year as a result of antimicrobial resistance (superbugs) due to the overuse of antibiotics.
A third of all antibiotics in the world are used on farm animals. The animals on high welfare farms, on the other hand, are healthier and more resilient to disease, and do not require antibiotics.

“Behind closed doors, chickens are grown so fast they can’t even stand, and piglets are routinely mutilated. Billions of animals born into factory farms live a life of misery. This may provide people with cheap meat, but we are paying the price with our health.” as said by Jacqueline Mills, Head of Animals in Farming, World Animal Protection.

What has the EU enforced?

The European Union’s new laws go into effect on January 28th of 2022, banning farmed animals from being routinely fed antibiotics. World Animal Protection considers this to be a very progressive change.

Each year, more than 300 million caged farmed animals and 7.2 billion meat chickens are produced in Europe. As a result of cruel treatment, the majority of these animals suffer in factory farms where they are dosed with antibiotics in their feed or water.

Antibiotics may only be administered to sick, individual animals (and not to whole herds) under the new regulations. Antibiotics are no longer allowed to be used as a form of compensation for low welfare practices.

EU regulation on Medicated feed

Medicated feeds are one of three methods of administering antibiotics orally to animals. Other two methods of group treatment include adding antibiotics to drinking water and manually mixing antibiotics into feed. These two other types of group treatment are not covered by this regulation.

This regulation contains a complete prohibition on the use of antimicrobial veterinary medicines for prophylactic treatments.

EU Regulation on Veterinary Medicinal Products

This regulation introduces a general principle that antimicrobials cannot be used routinely or to compensate for poor husbandry. It explicitly bans using antimicrobials for growth promotion. It restricts prophylactic antibiotic use to “exceptional cases” when “the risk of an infection or of an infectious disease is very high and the consequences are likely to be severe”. The restriction on metaphylactic antibiotic use to situations where the risk of infection is “high” and no alternatives are available.

EU bans Zinc oxide at full therapeutic doses

Recently weaned piglets are often fed high therapeutic doses of zinc oxide in many European countries. High doses of zinc help control post weaning diarrhoea, which frequently occurs in prematurely weaned piglets, but they also promote growth.

On 26 June 2022, the European Commission ruled that all veterinary medicines containing zinc oxide must be withdrawn from the market. Zinc oxide can be provided to pigs at the low, nutritional doses of 150 parts per million (ppm), the high, therapeutic dose of 2,500 ppm will not be permitted any longer.

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