melbourne vegan

Jaclyn McCosker

Blogger, social entrepreneur & freelance copywriter

Australia

A Post-Antibiotic World

A Post-Antibiotic World

Antibiotics, one of the greatest feats of mankind. The ability to prevent and treat microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and parasites that make us sick. We use them for absolutely everything. They prevent minor illnesses from progressing to life-threatening situations, and they keep the seriously ill alive. In an average year almost50% of Australians will use antibiotics to treat an illness.

But they’re not just used for humans. Most antibiotics are given to healthy animals rather than sick people as is commonly believed. 80% of all antibiotics in the US and 65-70% of all antibiotics in Australia are used for livestock and poultry, administered preventatively in their daily feed. This is standard practice in Western countries so they can continue to confine millions of animals in tight spaces and hope that disease outbreaks don’t wipe out their entire investment. The problem with giving healthy animals antibiotics is that weak bacteria dies which forms the perfect environment for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to thrive.

As we use antibiotics, some bacterias refuse to go down without a fight. They roll with the punches and mutate to resist the antibiotic attack. And because bacteria multiply like rabbits, they’re able to spread quickly and render antibiotics totally ineffective. This means that scientists are forced to constantly adapt and create new antibiotic treatments to keep ahead of these mutations.

Drug resistant bacteria leaves the farms and slaughterhouses in a few different ways. Firstly, in the carcasses of the animals that are sent around the world for human consumption. Secondly, through the workers who handle the animals and their carcasses. And thirdly, through the water, soil and air.

Antibiotic in feedlot run-offs has been an issue of concern for 30 years, as the antibiotics fed to them wash into our waterways from their urine and faeces. Contaminated manure is also used to fertilise fields that grow food for human consumption. It’s believed that 75% of administered antibiotics make their way back into the natural environment. (That’s 75% of all antibiotics produced in the US just floating around and mutating bacteria for no reason.)

This is no small problem, because when bacteria learn to mutate, they teach it to other strands of bacteria. Very benign bacterias with no threat to humans are able to teach very dangerous bacterias how to beat antibiotics too. This creates what we callsuperbugs that kill tens of thousands of people a year.

Unfortunately for humankind, the latest study has found a bacteria immune to our very last antibiotic, Colistin. The end of modern medicine as we know it is slowly arriving, and we face the possibility of not being able to treat what were previously simple issues. Small injuries if infected could quickly become life-threatening.

By breeding animals in the billions every year, we are gambling with our own health. Cancer, diabetes, obesity, strokes and climate change itself are all issues stemming from our use and abuse of animals as food. This is just one of many reasons we need to stop our destructive behaviour now.

The solution to the overuse and misuse of important antibiotics is the absolute boycott of animal agriculture. By eliminating the need for routine use of antibiotics in farm animals and running irresponsible, self-interested meat industries out of business, we can reduce antibiotic resistance and keep our drugs effective at treating humans

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