Tag Archives: CAFOs

If sugar makes us fat, why DOESN’T it get used to bulk up farm animals?

Sugar lust
Take it from the billions of animals who know. Sugar is under-powered – to get really fat, you need antibiotics

Not good enough is why. Doesn’t do the job. If you want to bulk up proper, use antibiotics.

That’s what farmers do. Micro-doses of antibiotics in the feed – the most powerful growth boosters ever invented. To make animals WANT to eat more. And to make them absorb more food value than they normally do – which is  how they put on weight.

Super-duper growth boosters

Works great with cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, even fish. From egg to a roasting chicken in 6 weeks. From newborn calf to an Aberdeen Angus steak in 14 months.

Overnight maturity. Instant obesity.

The same with plants. Faster seeding, stronger shooting, quicker yielding. From antibiotics applied directly, or absorbed from the soil in animal manure.

Oh sure, sugar has an effect – but mild alongside antibiotics. Feeble. The farmers’ secret to fast fat for at least the last fifty years. Exploding to industrial levels  in the last twenty – with the introduction of factory farms or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

Exactly when our current obesity epidemic got started. Two thirds of British adults now overweight or obese – and one third of children too.

But not from sugar. Fifty years ago we had sugary Coke and junk-food pizza, just like we have now – and people didn’t get fat. Now they do. From the same antibiotics that the animals get fed.

How does that work?

All in the poo

That’s the messy part. Very ewey.

You see, animals don’t absorb all the food that they eat. Around 80% is pooed out again as waste, nature’s way of providing on-going fertility to plants and smaller animals like birds and insects. And not just nutrients either, but residual amounts of those antibiotics.

Some of it falls on the grass in animal grazing areas, to enrich the soil and promote healthy growth. The animals eat it, re-ingesting those same antibiotics all over again. Or they eat cereal straw and grass dried after cutting – or silage made from cereal crops like maize and wheat.

Again, grown with fertile manure from those same animals. And again with residual amounts of antibiotics – exactly like the micro-doses added to their feed in the first place.

So even if antibiotics are withdrawn from their food because they’re getting ready for market, they’re still getting their daily hit. Still with their appetites turned full throttle.

Our daily dose

And still with antibiotics in their bodies. Which become the beef, lamb, pork and poultry offerings on our supermarket shelves – ready for us to eat, antibiotics and all.

With the same effect of making US want to eat more than we usually do – and absorbing more nutrients than normal. What works for the animals works for us, so WE get fat too.

Fatter and fatter. Because we don’t go to market at an early age – we’re here for the long haul. So we pile on the pounds – meal after meal, day after day without realising it. Until suddenly we look in the mirror and we’re a hulking Size 20.

Yes, sugar has a bearing on it. We eat too much of it, of course we bulk up. Two two-litre Cokes instead of the 350ml bottle our grand-folks chugged. Double burger with extra fries – and muddy Mississippis to follow.

Too much food altogether, that’s why we get fat.

But sugar’s not the cause. Not everyone who puts two spoonfuls in their tea is a porker. Nor is everyone who chows a Mars bar dangerously overweight.

The info that we’re over the top doesn’t reach the brain because the bacteria in our gut mix up the signals. We over-eat without realising it – until reality hits us in the mirror.

So putting a tax on sugar is not exactly going to help. It’s treating symptoms, not cause.

Yes, we eat too much sugar. And too much bread, and too many chips, and too much cheese, and too many eggs, and too much jam, and too much cake, and too much ice cream, and too much curry and rice.

It’s not the sugar that’s the problem. It’s the too much.

And the only way to stop it, is to stop us getting these micro-doses of antibiotics in everything we eat. Meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy – even water. Everything is laced with them – right through the whole food production chain.

With more coming all the time. 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics currently get used worldwide in agriculture – with totals set to hike nearly 70% by 2030.

Which means it’s not sugar we have to tax, it’s antibiotics.

Not exactly wise – because without them, world food production would stall completely.

From eating and absorbing too much, billions of people would starve and wither. And there would be nobody to eat the sugar anyway.

Ever get the feeling our “experts” don’t know what they’re talking about?

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Shrink sweet sizes? Really? When ALL other foods already contain super-fattening drugs?

Woman with rolling pin
Lay off the sugar if you like – but those super-fattening drugs are in everything else you eat

Public Health England might want to rethink this one. Because shrinking sweet sizes to cut obesity will most likely achieve nothing.

Nothing except irate sweet eaters who eat double to compensate.

Oh sure, the sugar in sweets DOES contribute to making us all fatter.

But one Snickers bar a week is not exactly going to blow us up like an elephant.

It takes several a day – on top of pigging out on everything else – to do that.

Gorging ourselves stupid. Eating too much – of everything. Absorbing too much for our bodies to take, so they bulk up.

Exactly what farmers do to get animals ready for market. As quickly as possible – money, money, money.

Gut bacteria on the fritz

Which is why they feed them drugs to fatten them up. Deliberately obese-ifying them. From an egg to a roasting chicken in 6 weeks. From newborn calf to an Aberdeen Angus steak in 14 months.

And the drugs they use are antibiotics. Added to feedstuffs in small doses. Just right to tip animals’ gut bacteria into always wanting food. Becoming more efficient at extracting nutrients from it too. The proven way to bulk up fast.

Proven, right?

Because aren’t drugs frequently tested on animals before they’re let loose on humans? To see if they work properly – or head off any Frankenstein side-effects?

Yes, well. Farmers worldwide have proved the case well and truly – and do so every day.  As they have done since antibiotics were discovered 50 years ago. Today they’re using 240,000 tonnes of the stuff a year.

Which is how they produce the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle, 1 billion pigs and 1 billion sheep that keep us fed.

And how they pushed food production to feed us all. From the 2½ billion people we were 50 years ago – to the7½ billion we are today. All off exactly the same available land.

Get the picture? The planet isn’t any bigger since back then – what’s different is the antibiotics.

So yes, proven. Antibiotics obese-ify animals, which means they obese-ify us too. The world’s most efficient super-fattening growth boosters. Which is how come today two thirds of us are porkers.

Proven super-fatteners

Proven beyond doubt.

Which sort of says that cutting sweet sizes down by a fifth isn’t exactly going to crack it. People will get fat anyway, from the other stuff that they eat. Fat and getting fatter, even if they’ve never chomped a Snickers.

Now of course, the powers that be will tell you this isn’t possible. That there aren’t any antibiotics in the foods we eat. Farmers feed them to their animals, yes – but doses are withdrawn weeks before market and all meat is antibiotics-free.

If only. Because to feed 7½ billion people requires factory farm methods to sustain enough food supply.

CAFOs these farms are called – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Animals crowded into intensive growing areas – so much on top of each other that antibiotics are necessary just to help them survive.

OK, so health authorities know this. And they’re concerned too, for the effect any antibiotics in the meat might have on humans. Specifically carcinogenic, toxic or allergenic effects.

Antimicrobal resistance & MRLs

And of course superbugs. Harmful bacteria that have become immune to antibiotics and cannot be treated. Top of the list being carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE), neisseria gonorrhoeae, clostridium difficile, multi drug-resistant acinetobacter – and the only one most of us have heard of – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

All of which raise the scary reality that modern medicine is back to the Dark Ages. Soon heart bypass surgery, C-section births and hip replacements will no longer possible because the drugs won’t work against infection.

That said, there’s still antibiotics in our food. Because while levels are reduced to make it safe for us to eat, they’re not removed entirely. Trace residues are still allowed as long as they conform to legal Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs).

Still there in our food, but only in little bits.

Precisely the way antibiotics are administered to livestock to obese-ify them.

And precisely the way we ingest them when we eat animal meat. Little drip-drip doses, just enough to tip our gut bacteria out of balance and our appetites jammed on full throttle.

If only it stopped there.

Universally obese

You see, most animals only absorb 20% of the food value that they eat. The rest is excreted as waste – Nature’s way of providing nutrients to enrich the soil and promote plant life.

Manure and fertiliser for plant crops. Vital at today’s population volumes. So that antibiotics-laden enrichment finds its way into everything else that we eat. Grains crops, cereals, vegetables, fruit – often in higher concentrations than with animal meat.

And not monitored either because nobody twigs there’s antibiotics in their food source.

It’s also how antibiotics in animal meat sneak back – in higher volumes than regulations allow.

Not all meat is monitored and tested, the logistics are impossible. Any checks are intermittent and random.

Meanwhile, the calf that’s eating grass or feed from sugar beet is still chowing down its daily dose of antibiotics. Grown back into its food by the very manure it pooed out in the first place.

And in water too, because the stuff seeps down into the water table, to be carried in streams to our river system. So when our drinking water comes from the Thames, it quite probably has antibiotics in it.

Sugar tax or sugar hoax?

Harsh reality, huh?

And we haven’t had a Snickers or a Coke since the start of this page – yet already we’re full of antibiotics making us fatter.

Not good, PSE. Not good at all. And there’s a sugar craving coming on.

Better watch the Great British Bake Off.

We can’t eat sweets, so we’ll have to get our hit some other way.

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No amount of sugar can sweeten the truth – it’s ANTIBIOTICS that make us fat

Plus size girl cutting fat off
We can cut out sugar, starch or all of them – truth is, we’ll still be fat unless we cut out antibiotics

The truth is certainly that we’re all getting fat.

Two thirds of adults are already overweight or obese. So are one third of children.

Our couch potato lifestyle, junk food addiction and sugary drinks are to blame say the experts. We’re bringing this misery on ourselves.

The truth is equally that we never used to be like this. The Swinging England of the Sixties was stick thin by comparison. So were the Seventies, and the Eighties.

People slouched in front of the telly in those days too. And ate junk food. Wimpy hamburgers from Coventry Street in 1954. Pizza Hut from Islington in 1973.

And of course Coke from 1926, starting at Selfridges.

Uh huh.

The disastrous miracle

Looks like there’s more to the truth than meets the eye. Our Mums weren’t fat, so how come we are?  How come if we want to look slim, we have to be Photo-shopped that way?

Because if all the things that are supposed to make us fat were around all those years ago, why are we only ballooning up now? Our current epidemic of fatness only started in the late 90s, so what was different in the 40 years before?

Yes, well those were the days before factory farms were invented to feed the world’s exploding population. 2½ billion back then, versus 7½ billion now. Farmers needed a magic bullet or all of us would starve.

The miracle they chose was antibiotics.

First, antibiotics would keep animals healthy, all crowded together in the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) needed to supply large numbers.

Second and more amazing, antibiotics would make them grow faster. Bulk up quicker, be ready for market sooner. From egg to roasting chicken in six weeks. From new born calf to Aberdeen Angus steak in 14 months.

Fatter and fatter

Though scientists had known about the growth phenomenon ever since antibiotics were discovered in 1948 – overnight they rocketed to became the ultimate growth booster. Round the world, antibiotics were shovelled into animal feedstuffs like there was no tomorrow.

Today, according to a government report, 240,000 tons of antibiotics a year are used on farms around the world. By 2030, that could nearly double.

An industrial volume so staggering that medics attribute it as the major cause of antibiotic resistance. The rise of superbugs – harmful and often lethal bacteria that have mutated to become immune to treatment by antibiotics.

Officially, antibiotics are therefore banned from animal feedstuffs as a growth booster – certainly throughout the EU. They’re still used to keep animals healthy though. Their daily dose is still administered – but not as food, as medicine.

And in the super-crowded, unhealthy slum conditions of CAFOs, antibiotics are essential to keeping them alive.

Fatter vegetarians too

It doesn’t stop there.

Manure from these animals is used to enrich soil and fertilise plant crops. It’s full of nutrients – and residual antibiotics. Because as part of nature’s life balance, most animals excrete 80% of what they eat – to become a food source for plants and other living things.

Which means animals are still EATING antibiotics anyway. Not added to food, but already in there – grown from the earth in the grass, straw, soya, maize and corn they’re fed.

And that means, you guessed it, they’re laced full of antibiotics when they’re sold and wind up on our supermarket shelves. Food that we will eat, charged with these same super growth boosters – more and more with every meal. Deliberate fat-makers we don’t even know we’re eating.

It’s not just in meat either.

The same animal fertiliser is ingested by plants of all kinds – grain crops, fruit and vegetables , fruit trees, everything. They’re full of antibiotics too.

So is our water. Antibiotics from manure leach into the soil and down to the water table. They’re in our streams and reservoirs, including the Thames.  Every turn of our kitchen taps is another partial dose.

Deliberately fatter, without our permission

And there’s the truth of it. Every meal we eat, every morsel, every bite – contains a residual dose of the most efficient growth booster in human history.

We’re getting fat because our bodies respond just the same way that animals’ do. We crave power foods because our hunger switch is always on. Our bodies never know when they’ve had enough. They even extract more food value than they should, absorbing more nutrients, accelerating the fattening process.

Thanks to antibiotics, we eat too much.

Can’t face the truth? Easier to live with than the mumbo-jumbo we’ve  been sold about diets all these years though, isn’t it? Which, it seems, is not exactly the truth either.

Besides, it means it’s not our fault we’re fat.

We’re the only ones who can fix it though. And it can be done. Simple physics. We’re eating too much, so we all have to eat less.

Not easy. To succeed takes hard work and will power.

And that’s no lie.

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Medics are worried antibiotics don’t work – but if we stop using them, we’ll all starve

Glam surgeon
Antibiotics aren’t working, people are going to die. They make people fat too, which also makes them die. The same with the animals – and if they die, we’ll all starve. But at least we’ll all be thin.

Yes, starve. At least 5 billion of us, two-thirds of the world’s population.

That’s the price tag, if we stop using antibiotics.

Not just in health, but in food production.

Where 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics are fed to livestock every year. To the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle, 1 billion pigs and 1 billion sheep that currently feed us.

Which in turn generate the fertile manure to produce wheat, rice and maize – mega-crops that deliver 50% of our plant food energy. As well as the sorghum, millet, potatoes, sweet potatoes, soybean and sugar that provide the next 25 percent.

Antibiotics in everything

Food for us, food for the livestock that feed us – and all laced through with residual antibiotics.

Why?

Because antibiotics are the most efficient agricultural growth boosters ever.

In the 1950s when antibiotics were first discovered, the world population was just 2½ billion. Today – supported by exactly the same land space since the planet hasn’t got any bigger – that figure currently tops 7½ billion.

Only possible by the phenomenal growth-enhancing side effects of antibiotics in animal feedstuffs. Wonder drug medicines for us – boom time jackpot for farmers. From egg to roasting chicken in six weeks. From new born calf to Aberdeen Angus steak in 14 months. Jackpot!

So why would we pull the plug on the miracle that feeds us all so effortlessly?

Because the bacteria-clobbering MEDICAL miracle of antibiotics is fast not working any more. Bacteria have become resistant to them and developed immunity to them. They have become ineffective – and our own chief Medical Officer for England, Dr Dame Sally Davies, says so.

Pan resistant bacteria

As if to emphasise that point, last week the exploding medical hand grenade was the 70-year-old American patient who died of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) – a bug resistant to ALL antibiotics. Pan resistant bacteria are now a reality.

Antibiotics that don’t fight germs? It’s the end of modern medicine. No more heart transplants or hip replacements. Nor births by caesarean section either. Or any one of the thousands of routine operations and treatments impossible without infection protection.

It’s the end of a lot more besides.

What about all those billions of cows and chickens – and the daily dose in their feedstuff?

To breed in numbers like that, they have to live on crowded and disease-prone factory farms. Antibiotics make them grow faster but also keep them well. Essential for survival in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

So yes, farmers will keep shovelling antibiotics at them. With 7½ billion mouths to feed, they can’t afford not to. Antibiotics or starve.

Except that just like with us, antibiotics will start failing for them too. And when one animal dies, the rest will follow in quick succession. A bushfire epidemic ripping through a slum – exactly what a CAFO is.

No more miracles

Which puts us between a rock and a hard place. Antibiotics can’t save our lives any more – and can’t save us from starving either.

Oh, but ironically for maximum misery, antibiotics make us fat too, just like the cows. So we have the rewards of obesity to look forward to as well – diabetes, asthma, cancer heart disease. Not a happy future.

But just maybe, a pretty one. Because antibiotics are so heavily part of our diet through our food, two thirds of Brit adults are already overweight or obese – and so are a third of our kids. So at least if we starve, we won’t go out fat.

For as the glamorous Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor once said “you can’t be too rich or too thin”.

Pass the streptomycin.

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Fat and forty? The food “Mickey Finns” that push us to obesity

Sad and overweight
Our overweight future – thanks to antibiotic Mickey Finn fat pills

One Big Mac won’t make you fat. But you can OD on them. Pushed by “Mickey Finns” that make your body always hungry.

You scoff and scoff like it’s going out of fashion. Too many calories – boom, you’re a porker.

Except it usually happens slower than that. And there’s not a hell of a lot you can do about it.

Chubby in childhood, the pounds keep piling on. Until one day, hello forty and size 16.

It’s the Mickey Finns, see?

Invisible fat pills

None of us realise we’re taking them. They’re slipped so quietly into every meal, not even doctors realise we’re on them. Every mouthful, another little dose. An unseen diet of the most efficient growth promoters on Earth.

Make no error – these are fat boosters, Big Time. Specially chosen because they bulk up bodies fast.

One, by triggering hunger pangs all the time. Two, by never letting the body decide when to stop. And three, by making the body absorb more nutrition than it’s meant to. Nowhere to go, so all that energy is stored as fat.

Nah, we’re talking rubbish, right? Nobody in their right mind would drip-feed growth boosters to the world at large. That would trigger an obesity epidemic.

Quiet please, epidemic in progress

Uh huh.

So would somebody please explain why two thirds of all adults are already seriously overweight or obese? And why one third of our kids are too?

Kinda looks like an epidemic, doesn’t it? Even our Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies, says so – though she attributes it to sugar.

Sugar as a growth booster?

If it was, there’d be farmers shovelling it into livestock as fast as they could. All those mouths to feed, see? 2½ billion of us worldwide fifty years ago – 7½ billion of us now. And all farmed off the same land area, because the planet hasn’t got any bigger in that time.

But farmers aren’t shovelling sugar, are they? It never even occurs to them.

Tell you what they are shovelling though.

Wholesale growth boosters

Antibiotics – 240,000 tonnes of them worldwide.

Which if we’ve done our maths right, works out to around 10 grams each for every one of the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle, 1 billion pigs and 1 billion sheep that currently are required to feed us.

And guess what?

Using antibiotics to boost growth at volumes like that started back in the 70s.

Back when factory farms first took off Big Time. Or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) as the industry calls them. Where antibiotics aren’t just used as growth boosters, they’re vital to keeping animals alive in super-crowded and unhygienic living conditions.

Big money though.  From egg to roasting chicken in six weeks. From new born calf to Aberdeen Angus steak in 14 months. Jackpot!

Rise of Mickey Finns

70s, huh? When our current fat 40-year-olds  were a twinkle in their parents’ eye.

Back when baby illnesses started regularly getting treated by antibiotics. And when doctors first noticed that antibiotics given at two years old almost guaranteed overweight youngsters by five.  Even worse, when teenagers were prescribed antibiotics so often, they’d had them 17 times before they reached 20.

But how about all those animals chomping antibiotics?

Like everything else they eat, most of them get pooed out. 80% in fact, manure to enrich soil and fertilise plant crops. So it’s not just animals ingesting antibiotics, it’s plants too – fruit, cereals, grain crops, vegetables, you name it.

Animal feed crops too. So even though they get pulled off antibiotics before they’re sent to market, those animals are still noshing antibiotics with every meal. Right there in their feedstuff. Mickey Finns for animals.

Which means just about every food type in our supermarkets has antibiotic residues in it. Drip-drip growth boosters, the same as the animals get.  And just like them, we’re fattening up too.

But there’s a difference.

The Mickey Finn price tag

Animal lives are short, once they’re fat they get eaten.

Humans are there for the obesity long haul. For the overweight conditions that challenge muscles, joints and breathing.  For the type 2 diabetes. For the asthma, cancer and heart disease. All the joys that long term obesity brings.

Mickey Finns. And we thought they were Lifesavers.

Meanwhile all our heavyweight medics are running around, worrying about antibiotic resistance. Who cares if the drugs don’t work, they’re going to kill us anyway.

So how long before the penny drops and we dump them altogether?

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Eek, not food poisoning! Keep calm and cook food thoroughly

Woman butcher
Hygiene and common sense – we’re not utterly defenceless

Relax, nobody’s going to die. Or get the collywobbles . Or anything.

As long as everything is properly cooked, we’re all going to be fine.

Because unless you’re into sushi or steak tartare, nobody eats meat raw, do they?

And if whatever you’re preparing is affected by any bacteria or something, most germs are destroyed by the high temperatures of cooking – everybody’s safe.

Take our current scare with chicken.

There’s all kinds of  official bodies jumping up and down because nearly three-quarters of the chicken in any supermarket is contaminated with campylobacter. Nasty upset tummies with that one, some people can get quite seriously ill.

Inconvenient truths

But here’s a fact of life. Pretty well most poultry has campylobacter. It occurs naturally in birds and may even be necessary for healthy existence. So chickens aren’t contaminated, they’re colonised. Cooked thoroughly, they’re perfectly safe.

It’s like we don’t eat fish with scales, or prawns with the blue vein. They could make you ill too if you were careless enough. It’s part of proper food prep, like shelling eggs, skinning oranges or peeling potatoes.

Of course you DO have to clean everything thoroughly as you do it. Knives, chopping boards, prep surfaces and all utensils need a good scrub after working with chicken. So do your hands, to avoid any risk infection.

But you were going to do all that anyway – WEREN’T you?

It’s the same with Danish bacon. Still about the best you can buy anywhere – but these days unfortunately nearly three-quarters of all Danish pork is afflicted with MRSA.

Well, with so many mouths to feed around the world, we were the ones who pressured farmers in Denmark and elsewhere into boosting production with antibiotics. Shovelling the stuff into livestock in industrial quantities too – 240,000 tonnes a year and skyrocketing.

Superbugs everywhere

Small wonder then that with hundreds of thousands of pigs, any bacteria they were carrying developed resistance. So now we have LA-MRSA (Livestock Associated Methicillin Resistant Streptococcus Aureus) THREATENING us, just like campylobacter.

Well, yes. Except that just like campylobacter, cook that Danish pork properly and all trace of LA-MRSA is removed – the bacon is safe to eat, just like previously.

And right there are two examples of highly popular food types that on the surface present a hazard, but with proper precautions are really nothing to worry about.

Yes, it is disturbing that superbugs like MRSA are in our food. But with antibiotics being used by agriculture in such astronomic quantities, we should heed and take precautions anyway. More than likely all kinds of food types are laced with other superbugs and we need to be on our guard.

At least we can turn up the heat and get rid of most of them – part of the cooking we are already doing.

Worse than superbugs

Much more worrying are residual traces of the antibiotics themselves, which heat cannot get rid of unless you boil your food for hours, losing all taste and appeal.

All those animals were fed antibiotics to keep them healthy in the super-crowded environment of factory farms (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). With the money-making side effect that they fattened up for market in a quarter of the time.

Yeah, well – we eat those animals, we swallow the same antibiotics, we fatten up too. On the one-way road to obesity with all the inevitable complications – diabetes, heart disease, cancer. Literally to a dead end.

Getting rid of the antibiotics – that’s an issue all of us face and none of us are ready for.  A headache for governments and health authorities for years to come.

Superbugs in our food though – they’re a problem too, but we can make them go away.

Guess that answers the question, hey? Would you prefer rare, medium or well-done?

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Why AMR on farms will be our biggest killer yet

Vet with calf
One way or another, our miracle life-saving drugs are going to kill us

Sounds all very innocent, doesn’t it? AMR on farms.

Yet within our lifetime, it could be the cause of 5 BILLION deaths – the biggest single calamity in our history.

Three little letters – AMR. Antimicrobial resistance, the increasing immunity of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi to any medicine we throw at them.

Already a global health issue, this week its superbug effect on humans became the focus of world leaders at the United Nations.

The largely British initiative was driven by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, who targeted AMR as “the greatest future threat to our civilisation.”

The real villain

And top of the list of medicines most susceptible to AMR, is our previously unequalled group of miracle wonder drugs – antibiotics.

Because they’re so amazing, antibiotics have become almost the cure-all for any kind of illness or infection.

Major surgery? Yup, they’re essential. And little Jimmy’s cough? Start him on these and come back in a week.

With this kind of “infallible” hype among doctors and patients, they’ve become over-prescribed and over-used in almost a third of all cases – dramatically accelerating the opportunities for bacteria to develop immunity.

More chance to practice, more chance to succeed. Easy-peasy when you’re a versatile organism and high survivor, able to reproduce every twenty minutes

Armageddon in the making

So yes, AMR is a global nightmare. But a midget alongside the Armageddon of AMR on farms.

240,000 TONNES of antibiotics are shovelled into farm livestock every year. Industry will assert it’s to keep animals healthy. Reality is that antibiotics promote growth like nothing on Earth. Animals develop bigger, better and faster for a fraction of the cost and time.

The growth rate is so fantastic that in the 50 years since antibiotics were discovered, world food production has expanded to support a population more than THREE TIMES THE SIZE. And even more amazingly, off exactly the same amount of land – our planet is still as big as it was, half a century ago.

To do this of course, farming has become astronomically more intense. Expanding from the quaint pastoral myth of our childhood to the factory farms of today.

Ever heard of CAFOs?

That’s what industrial-scale factory farms are – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Google for images of “CAFO” and you’ll see what we mean. Production so concentrated, it’s like animals herded into an over-crowded block of flats.

Such environments are so unhealthy that antibiotics are vital to keeping animals alive, let alone fattening them up. They compensate for the unnatural and unhealthy conditions – the everyday “veterinary” excuse for an industry that bucks against limiting antibiotics precisely because of AMR.

And as you’d expect, AMR on farms happens on an industrial scale – just like the farms themselves.

Superbug factories

No wonder. Bacteria are the oldest and most successful living organisms on the planet. Capable of surviving intense heat, intense cold, and even heavily acid environments. No antibiotic has stood up to them for more than 25 years.

Bash bacteria all you like, they always win. So that factory farms become superbug factories.

Which means that total AMR on farms is a fast-approaching reality. By numbers alone, accelerating faster than among us humans.

And what happens when AMR on farms becomes “pan-resistant” – responsive to no antibiotics at all?

In their concentration camp environments, the animals will sicken and die. Contagion will spread among them like wildfire. Infecting neighbouring farms through contaminated manure, ground seepage and water supply.

Overnight famine

Like all epidemics, it will happen suddenly. Overnight, millions of animals will be lost. 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle, 1 billion sheep and 1 billion pigs. Most of the world’s food supply – gone.

No food. Not for the 7½ billion we are now. Precious little for the 2½ billion we were 50 years ago, before this antibiotics disaster started. A one-way ticket for at least 5 billion of us – famine and death.

But we’re already dying anyway. Because of those same antibiotics.

Yes, from disease caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

And more frighteningly, from the drip-drip sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics we ingest every meal through our food.

All this, and obesity too

Antibiotics fatten up animals. We eat them, we fatten up from the same antibiotics. If not directly, then from their manure used to fertilise crops and other animal feed. Inescapable even if we’re vegetarian. Which is why two thirds of us are already obese.

But there’s a difference. Animals only survive fourteen months before they go to market.  Bigger and fatter – a kind of short-term obesity.

We go for the long haul. Living on for decades, getting fatter and fatter, more and more obese. And paying the inevitable price for obesity – asthma, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The long, slow road to painful and miserable death.

The UN meeting wants us to develop new antibiotics, use them more responsibly and cut down on the need for them through better hygiene.

Not good enough if we read the signs.

The ultimate price

Change or no change, all antibiotics will:

  • Inevitably succumb to AMR, generating killer superbugs
  • Push increasing numbers of us into accelerating obesity
  • Unleash AMR on farms, triggering wide-scale disease, rapidly followed by famine

Three outcomes, all ending in death. Our miracle life-savers have become mass killers.

Enough tinkering with antibiotics now.

It’s time our leaders found some serious alternatives.

What’s up, Doc?

Picture Copyright: edu1971 / 123RF Stock Photo