LETTER: Antibiotic resistance affects us all

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It sometimes seems that the human race (or more accurately its leaders) have a death wish. 
The only unpredictable aspect of headlines such as ‘Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs Pose a Global Threat’ (November 19) was when they would appear. That they would appear has not been in doubt since 1969.

This is when Dr Michael Swann’s report highlighted the huge dangers of feeding antibiotics to farmed animals in large quantities. It was promptly watered down by government and emasculated. Since then, report has followed report in similar vein, and little has happened. 
In the UK, 50 per cent of all antibiotics are fed to farmed animals, in the US it is 80 per cent - and mutated, resistant bacteria know no national boundaries.

That is why the new, deadly E.coli superbug discovered in a Chinese pig farm will not remain in China. Its resistance to colistin - a polymixin drug of last resort – is likely to quickly render this drug ineffective. Equally as disturbing is this bug’s ability to pass its resistance on to other bugs.

Past debates have mostly revolved around doctors’ over prescribing, while the main reason was right there in front of us, on our dinner plates. In the last 18 months alone, two new strains of MRSA resistant superbugs have evolved in farmed animals – pigs and dairy cows – but life has gone on as normal.

‘Normal’ means cramming animals into obscenely filthy factory farms or working them to death, as with dairy cows - systems that rely entirely on the liberal use of antibiotics and other drugs. It isn’t good enough that meat products lie at the heart of most degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer etc but they are increasingly becoming toxic.

Viva! has been warning of this disaster for over 20 years and again urges people to go vegan, for the sake of the animals and their own health. 
It’s easy – sign up to our ’30-Day Vegan’ campaign and we’ll give you all the help you need. Go to www.viva.org.uk/30dayvegan.

Tony Wardle

Viva! Associate director