Sunday, 1 July 2012

Pig Out

The important "Nature" launches an attack on US antibiotic use in pigs, by making a comparison between the USA and Denmark. It is a fair comparison and one that could also be made between Britain and Denmark too.

However, it makes an artificial distinction between animals fed antibiotics for growth promotion, for disease prevention and for disease treatment.

Even making an effort to distinguish depends on the integrity and judgement of the veterinarian - and we don’t see much hope in relying on that -would be about as effective as encouraging investment banksters to “be good.”

What the Danes did do was make the whole process completely transparent. Their minister faced down his veterinarians and published the name of every farm, its location and their antibiotic use, together with an interactive map, using the alternative media to publish.

He led from the front and ignored the veterinarians who were furious.  You can read the extraordinary story here

The veterinarians and pig farmers were shamed into cleaning up their act. Transparency forced reform. The farms with sick pigs were identified and had to deal with the problem properly. 

That is not going to happen in Britain. Our virtually unregulated veterinary industry is untouchable. The government veterinarians make and break the rules. They regulate their own industry with a featherweight touch.

So Britain is going to continue to feed pigs excessive antibiotics until the disaster becomes so bad and so obvious that the government is forced to take draconian action.

The Danes will have a thriving pig industry but will have to watch for infection from abroad. 

They will lead those insisting on reform in Britain and elsewhere.

The veterinary industry knew what they were doing and were motivated by greed: just like the bankers that fiddled the figures and took the bonuses.

But the bankers just made us poorer; inadequately regulated antibiotic use kills kids

The full "Nature" article can be found here

Pig out

Published online 27 June 2012

If farmers do not rein in the use of antibiotics for livestock, people will be severely affected.
...The overuse of antibiotics in farm animals is a global issue. Human propensity for trade and travel ensures that resistant bacteria spread easily around the world, so as long as any one country pumps its pigs and poultry full of the drugs, everyone is at risk.
In 1998, the Danish poultry industry took the unusual step of volunteering to stop using antibiotics for the promotion of animal growth. Two years later, the country's pork farmers did the same. Denmark might be a small country, but it is the world's largest exporter of pork... 
... Denmark went on to reduce its overall use of antibiotics in livestock by 60%. It achieved this by creating a comprehensive surveillance system to monitor overuse, and limiting the amount of money that vets could make from selling the drugs to farmers.
Many feared that the changes would cripple Denmark's pork production. Instead, production rose by 50%. “Any country trying to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock can learn from what my colleagues and I did in Denmark, adjusting what worked to local needs,” Aarestrup writes. These are encouraging words, but it is unlikely to be that simple.
The biggest obstacle is likely to be generating the political resolve and public support needed to crack down on the lucrative trade in antibiotics. This was possible in Denmark because there, perhaps uniquely, warnings from the medical community were picked up by the media, creating widespread public awareness of the problems caused by the overuse of antibiotics. People in other countries may not be so engaged, particularly when faced with the inevitable lobbying of the agricultural and veterinary sectors, which make big profits from selling antibiotics...
... The people of Denmark deserve praise for their efforts, and other countries, and their people, should look more carefully at what their animals are being fed.