Hello everybody, today’s post is going to be quite different from anything I’ve ever posted to my blog before. That’s a daunting prospect for me but hopefully this will be quite interesting and eye-opening. I think it’s probably one of the heaviest posts I’ve ever attempted. So please do go easy on me.
So today, I signed into my work computer and our staff page was running an article on antibiotic resistance. I work at the University of Leeds, and the university has just been awarded 3.8 million to tackle antibiotic resistance as part of a cross-council initiative worth 9.5 million, so clearly this is clearly a quite a major public health concern. Naturally,
because it’s all I ever think and talk about, kidding, it got me thinking about veganism and the human benefits of veganism.
What has veganism got to do with human bacterial resistance THOUGH you ask? Well, everything. And antibiotic resistance is literally just one of hundreds of thousands of examples of how beneficial veganism can and should be, not just as a healthy lifestyle, but as a fundamental ethical, human consideration – which is becoming more and more urgently necessary.
Ok so, in short the demand for meat and animal products increases the need for antimicrobial drugs – antibiotics, fact. And every time we use antibiotics, we give bacteria another chance to develop mutations in order to survive. And this is a monumental problem, especially when we consider the use of antibiotics in farming and for the production of meat and animal products for a mass market.
Factory farming is an industry, and like any industry it’s fueled by money and profit. Farmers need to be making high margins on their products and turning a high enough profit so as to be able to keep up with the increasing demands of the market. And how do they do this? They pump their ‘stock’ full of antibiotics. And why do they do this? Firstly, their stock live in such horrendous conditions that their immune systems are shot. But another primary reason why antibiotics are used is because they result in animals growing to be 25-33% larger.
Agricultural journals even preach the ways in which the drugs can act like a kind of super food to make meat cheaper for the mass market. We’re talking like, animal steroids. These antimicrobials are added to animals food and water, so we’re dealing with roided up dairy cows and egg-laying hens, chickens, ducks, cows, pigs and fish. Even bees get antibiotics into their hives.
This method turns profit and it does it quickly. It’s a win win for the agricultural industry and a LOSE LOSE for the planet, humanity, the animals, every single other thing pretty much that I can conceive of in my head. The pathogens which batter the immune systems of these poor chickens, or ducks, or pigs, or whatever unlucky animal we want to focus on for the sake of argument, are met which these huge doses of antibiotics, such that these animals actually grow a lot more than they would naturally. It makes bigger pieces of meat, in a shorter time frame and with less loss of stock due to infection and disease: it saves money, ultimately, which is great –
money is more powerful than health, life and the continuation of the human race. But at what cost down the line?
When these bacteria meet with antimicrobials in would-be healthy livestock, they mutate and they leave us with drug resistant super bugs which we can’t kill. Essentially, in the next 50 years or so, we could be facing an age in which we can no longer fight the common cold. Bacteria are mutating and reproducing faster than we can produce new antibiotics, in fact the last successful new antibiotic was developed in the 1980’s. That’s 30 years! And we’re looking at another 30 years before we have no microbial defenses at all. That’s terrifying. And returning to my example, factory farms are some of the most dangerous sources of antibiotic resistance.
The bottom line is that the abuse of antibiotics in an agricultural setting directly contributes to creating strains of bacteria which are resistant. And even more than that, factory farms and accelerated mass production of meat, dairy and other animal products are helping us to orchestrate an end point at which the common cold could very conceivably kill us, a scrape picked up playing football could turn into a festering, fatal wound. And it’s not just this, a article in the New York Times suggests that abuse of these infection fighting drugs has not only led to the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria — super bugs like salmonella and MRSA, but also to obesity in our human populations? Worth it? NO.
Now, agricultural antibiotic use is actually banned inside of the EU but the controls on this are very slack and the laws aren’t adequately enforced. Spot checks reveal that actually, antibiotics are used and abused in UK and EU farms without any real restriction. And in the US Currently, 80 percent of antibiotics used in the United States are administered to animals on farms. So it’s a very big, very real, problem.
The sad reality is that antibiotics are being using to make money faster, and with little to no foresight as to what the consequences may be for us in so little time as 20-30 years from now. So, the way I see it is this. The “someone else will solve the problem without me changing any of my behavior for the better” mentality just isn’t good enough. We need to drastically reconsider our dietary choices and the ways in which we ARE complicit when we buy and consume animal products. By boycotting meat and dairy products, we decrease the demand for them, meaning that less and less antibiotics are used on healthy animals. And this comes down to a matter of ethics and accountability.
One of the only arguments against veganism that I struggle to counter- that I simply haven’t been able to think of a response to- is the argument ‘I just don’t care about animals’. ‘I’m a meat eater because I don’t really care that animals are suffering before they get on my plate’. Whilst I can’t sympathize, it’s the only argument that’s ever really explained to me how you’d be able to condone and support animal cruelty. But this goes further than that. This isn’t about animal cruelty, although I would suggest we consider why it is that these animals need to be pumped full of these antibiotics in the first place, it’s literally about the survival of the human race. Refusing to take responsibility for our part in this global pandemic goes beyond selfishness and ignorance, and borders on reckless and suicidal. No matter how much or little you care for animals, or how much or little you enjoy meat, 30 years is absolutely nothing. At this rate, researchers say we are hurtling towards antibiotic resistance by 2050. This isn’t question of if it will happen it’s a question of when. It’s a prospect so terrifying, perhaps it doesn’t seem real enough to do anything about it.
However. We not only should, but we NEED to create a change through consumer demand. If we don’t want to be antibiotic resistant, very possibly by the turn of the next century, the inconvenient truth is that we need to reduce, or I’d suggest, nullify the demand for meat and animal products. And the best option, is to go vegan. What seems like such a sacrifice, to give up meat and dairy, absolutely pales in significance when you consider that the real sacrifice will be the lives of 10’s of millions of people and then any argument you can think of against this call to action falls into redundancy. It’s FACT, irrevocable, that in the case of microbial resistance – humanity would benefit from a worldwide shift to a vegan diet.