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Factory farming has been branded a ‘ticking timebomb’ when it comes to the impending superbug crisis.

World Animal Protection (WAP) says antibiotic-resistant bacteria are emerging on farms due to antibiotic overuse.

Globally, farmers use 75 percent of all antibiotics, it adds. While some are used to treat legitimately sick animals, often they are administered because the often dirty and stressful conditions on farms ‘naturally hinders the animals’ immunity’.

Antibiotic resistance

Dr. Justine Butler is science writer and researcher for Viva!. She says: “In 1945, Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, warned of the danger of over-reliance on antibiotics and the threat of bacteria developing resistance. Now, 74 years later, his fears have been realized as we enter a post-antibiotic age.

“Antibiotics have been helping us fight infection since the 1940s.”

She added that even a small scratch could potentially kill a person before we had antibiotics.


WAP says altogether, antibiotic resistant infections kill 700,000 people every year.

By 2050, 10 million people will die due to superbugs. This is according to the 2014 paper Antimicrobial resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations.

Accordingly, WAP is calling for the end of factory farming. It says we need, without a doubt, to end the use of antibiotics to promote fast growth or prevent disease among stressed animals.

Superbug crisis

Jacqueline Mills is head of world farming at World Animal Protection. She said: “If the pandemic is the flash flood that has taken us by surprise, the superbug crisis is the only too predictable slow rising tide. 

“We can’t ignore the contribution the overuse of antibiotics in factory farming is having on the rise in antibiotic resistance. It’s a ticking timebomb that could make the current public health crisis even worse if antibiotics are ineffective in treating secondary infections.”

She then added: “Governments need to lift animal welfare standards, and monitor and report on antibiotic use in farm animals. International fast-food restaurants should be setting the bar far higher to ensure the animals in their supply chains are treated well, and antibiotics are used responsibly in farming.”

*This article was updated on November 6 to reflect that some animals are farms are given antibiotics to treat illness as well as because ‘the dirty and stressful conditions on farms ‘naturally hinder their immunity’.

Maria Chiorando

Maria is a news and features writer for Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle. She was previously the editor of Plant Based News for over 3 years.