Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Thursday, April 8, 2021
Is Canada’s hog industry doing its part to counter antibiotic resistance, now considered a world health crisis? The most recent “report card” available seems to say, “no!”
by Larry Powell
|Prairie producers were feeding more antibiotics to their pigs in 2018 than 2017.|
Antibiotics have been bestowing a world of good on the human condition ever since - and even before - Alexander Fleming discovered the most famous one - penicillin - almost a century ago. Thanks to their ability to counter deadly infections - life expectancies have increased dramatically - and millions of lives have been saved - truly a turning point in the history of mankind.
But storm clouds have been gathering over this “age of enlightenment” for some time now.
It’s called “Antimicrobial resistance.” AMR happens when antibiotics are used too much, or for the wrong reasons. This does happen when treating people. However, as our own Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) makes clear, the real story lies elsewhere.
“There’s increasing evidence,” PHAC warns on its website, “that the use of antimicrobial agents in veterinary medicine and livestock production is an important contributing factor in the emergence of bacteria in people which have grown resistant to these medications.”
And the World Health Organization leaves little doubt about what should be done. “Simply stop giving animals such medications altogether, whether to promote growth or prevent disease. Healthy animals should only be treated if disease is diagnosed elsewhere in the same herd. And, even while treating animals already sick, only medications not considered critical for the treatment of human infections, should be used.”
If that’s the advice, what’s the reality?
The “Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance” is federally-mandated to find out how many of these drugs are used and why. Here’s what the 2018 CIPARS report reveals.
The use of antibiotics by industrial hog producers across the country was still common that year. (No more recent figures are available.)And, producers were still administering them for all the reasons warned against by the WHO. (See graph.)
They included nineteen different antibiotics considered important in the treatment of human infections.
Producers in Ontario and Quebec actually fed “significantly less” than they had in 2017. But, for their counterparts on the prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) it was a different story. In terms of both dosage numbers and quantities, they fed more.
While the Prairie industry actually administered fewer drugs by injection than they had the year before, one of the products injected remains of particular concern. Ceftiofur is considered to be of “very high importance” in human medicine. And that’s because, while it’s not used on people, it’s closely related to another, ceftriaxone which is. And its feared, resistance which may develop to one, could readily transfer to the other.
The role of the livestock industry - and its consequences.
Almost eighty percent of antibiotics sold in this country are used to raise animals for food. And one rough estimate from the Food and Agriculture Organization places yearly usage in the world’s livestock, at a-quarter-million tonnes.
Such volumes provide ideal conditions for harmful microbes to develop resistance and grow into “superbugs.” These can then be transferred to those of us who eat the meat. And when we become sick, fewer and fewer of the best drugs used to treat us, are working.
“If AMR isn’t contained,” cautions the WHO, “medical procedures such as caesarean sections, hip replacements, cancer chemotherapy, organ transplantation, malaria, tuberculosis and even childbirth will become increasingly risky.”
Just over a year ago, the Council of Canadian Academies confirmed that more than five thousand people had died as a direct result of AMR in 2018. And, if resistance continues to rise (which is considered highly likely), almost 400 thousand more of us will probably succumb by 2050.
And the O’ Neill report commissioned by the UK government in 2014 predicted that, by mid-century, AMR will claim ten million lives a year, more than cancer itself. As the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, ominously concluded, “If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine"
My request for comment from Manitoba Pork, which represents the industry here, went unanswered.
Given the dominance of the pork industry in Manitoba, where I live, I've been focussing on it in my research. This is why other livestock sectors are not mentioned here. l.p.
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
'Silent superbug killers in a river near you,' including Spain, the US, Thailand and Manitoba, Canada.
World Animal Protection
Public waterways next to industrial farms in Manitoba contain antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) that are dangerous to public health says a report from the global charity World Animal Protection. The report is the first multi-country investigation of its kind.
ARGs should be of concern because they are the building blocks for "superbugs" (bacteria that have developed resistance to one or more antibiotics). This means those antibiotics will be less or ineffective in treating infections in humans. Some antibiotics are already ineffective in some parts of the world. If action is not taken, in future, routine procedures like caesarean sections or cancer treatments could become dangerous worldwide.
The report found that industrial farms could be discharging superbugs into the wider environment as a result of pig waste being spread on fields and leeching into groundwater and public waterways.
Once in the environment, superbugs can reach humans in multiple ways. This includes through recreation such as water sports, eating fish from contaminated water and eating of crops contaminated with surface water.
In Manitoba, the presence of ARGs was evaluated from samples collected in November 2020 from publicly accessible spaces upstream and downstream of eight industrial pig farms. The investigation found ARGs resistant to antibiotics included cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones, which are of most concern to the World Health Organization (WHO). These antibiotics are the last line of defence for common infections like urinary tract infections or to keep patients alive with life threatening conditions like respiratory infections, when other antibiotics fail.
The routine overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is recognized by the WHO and the United Nations as a significant contributor to the emergence of superbugs. Up to 10 million people are expected to die from superbugs each year by 2050 if action isn't taken to stop their overuse.
On industrial farms, mother pigs are often stuck in cages their entire lives, their piglets suffer from painful procedures such as tail cutting and the animals are forced to spend their lives in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions on concrete floors, with no enrichment. This can cause stress and sickness, so routine antibiotics are used on the animals for disease prevention.
Lynn Kavanagh, Farming Campaign Manager, at World Animal Protection, says,
"Industrial animal agriculture is taking risks with people's lives by routinely using antibiotics, which is fueling the rise in dangerous superbugs," she says. "Keeping animals in conditions where they're healthier, is the only way to stop the overuse of antibiotics on farms. We need to stop using antibiotics across groups of animals to prevent sickness."
World Animal Protection also interviewed people from communities near the farms where testing was done.
Vicki Burns is with the group Hogwatch Manitoba and says they have been trying for years to get government attention on their concerns about the pig farms. She says there are toxic odours coming from the barn, impacting the communities and that too much manure gets into the local lake.
"It's very challenging", says Burns. "It's hard to get any people in power to pay attention to the problems of industrial agriculture."
Bill Massey is a local small scale pig farmer. He says, "I think in terms of antibiotic use, animal welfare, animal health, and just the ethics of this whole thing, I can hardly believe we can treat animals like this. When you take an intelligent animal like that and you put them in those kinds of conditions, you can imagine the stress animals are enduring."
From January 2022, it will be illegal in the European Union to administer antibiotics across groups of farm animals to prevent disease. Canada should follow suit.
It is important to note that antibiotics are crucial to treat individual animals who become sick; but stopping the prophylactic use of antibiotics will also make them more effective when needed.
World Animal Protection also urges the Canadian government to help farmers transition to more sustainable and humane systems where animals don't suffer and human health isn't at risk.
About World Animal Protection
From our offices around the world, including China, Brazil, Kenya and Canada, we move the world to protect animals. Last year, we gave more than 220 million animals better lives through our campaigns that focus on animals in the wild, animals in disasters, animals in communities and animals in farming. For more information visit www.worldanimalprotection.ca
SOURCE World Animal Protection
For further information: Please contact Nina Devries, email@example.com for interviews with a spokesperson, images and B-roll.
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Will the world’s addiction to industrial livestock production bring an end to the age of the “miracle drug?”
by Larry Powell - *Hog Watch Manitoba
(Note: Asterisks link to references at bottom.)
A pork processing plant in Neepawa, MB. Photo credit - HyLifeFoods.
Antibiotics have been bestowing a world of good on the human condition ever since Alexander Fleming discovered the most famous one - penicillin - almost a century ago. Thanks to their ability to counter deadly infections, millions of lives have been saved - truly a turning point in the history of mankind.
But, for some years now, clouds have been gathering. Numerous agencies, from the **World Health Organization (WHO) to our own ***Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), have been sounding similar alarm bells. All the wondrous benefits inherent in these life-saving medications may already be in jeopardy.
As PHAC states on its website, “There’s increasing evidence that the use of antimicrobial agents in veterinary medicine and livestock production is an important contributing factor in the emergence of bacteria in people which have grown resistant to these medications.”
It’s officially called “antimicrobial resistance,” or AMR. And it’s getting worse. Overuse spurs the growth of “superbugs,” which can then be transferred to people who eat the treated meat. As a result, fewer and fewer of the best drugs we can throw at them, are working, even on infections once considered routine.
Almost eighty percent of antibiotics sold in Canada are being given to livestock. And livestock in this country have, for some time, outnumbered people by about twenty-to-one.
One estimate from the UN’s ****Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states - agriculture, globally - could be using more than 240,000 tonnes, yearly. (Due to spotty data collection, it’s a rough estimate, only.)
|Photo credit - FAO.|
*****The O’ Neill report commissioned by the UK government in 2014, predicted that, by 2050, AMR will claim ten million lives a year, more than cancer itself. As the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, stated flatly, “If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine"
And, as if we needed more convincing, here’s how the WHO puts it.
“If AMR isn’t contained, medical procedures such as caesarean sections, hip replacements, cancer chemotherapy, organ transplantation, malaria and tuberculosis and even childbirth will become increasingly risky.”
What about Canada?
In a peer-reviewed study just over a year ago, ******the Council of Canadian Academies revealed - more than five thousand Canadians had already died as a direct result of AMR in 2018. Twenty-six percent of infections then, were already resistant. And if that number rises to 40% by 2015 (considered “highly plausible”), so, too will the death toll - to almost 400 thousand.
Hog Watch, therefore wants to know, why were hog producers on the Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) actually feeding more antibiotics to their herds in 2018 than they were the year before? (Latest figs. available.)
And how were their counterparts in the east (ON & PQ), able to feed less over that same period?
This information is confirmed in the 2018 annual report of *******“CIPARS,” an obscure federal surveillance program.
Here’s what the WHO recommends in this regard.
“Simply stop giving animals such medications altogether, whether to promote growth or prevent disease. Healthy animals should only be treated if disease is diagnosed elsewhere in the same herd. And, even while treating animals already sick, only medications not considered critical for the treatment of human infections, should be used.”
Despite all this, producers across Canada were still giving nineteen different antibiotics, considered important in the treatment of human infections, to their herds. And they weren’t given just to treat diseases after an outbreak, but to prevent disease and promote growth (to make their animals grow faster), too.
While feeding more in 2018, there was no significant difference in the amount of antibiotics those prairie producers injected into their herds from the year before.
However, one of those injectibles, ceftiofur, is of particular concern. Even though it isn’t given to people, just animals, it’s still listed as “very highly important.” That’s because it could well be transferring harmful resistance to other drugs in its class which are critical as human medications.
These are called “third-generation cephalosporins.” They’re considered medications of “last resort” in the treatment of ailments such as gonorrhoea. Yet, they’re already beginning to fail in several countries. The incidence of this sexually-transmitted disease has grown rapidly in Canada in recent years, reaching nearly 30,000 cases in 2017. This has raised fears that, one day soon, gonorrhoea will become incurable.
The poultry sector sets an example.
In 2014, chicken and turkey producers in Canada voluntarily stopped using drugs of most importance in treating human infections on their flocks. CIPARS reports, except for a small increase in BC, “This appears to be reducing antimicrobial resistance.”
On the other hand, some “isolates” (bacterial samples) taken from sick pigs “showed resistance to all seven classes of antimicrobials tested.”
Could the dominant method of producing livestock here and around the world actually contribute to the problem?
Here’s what the then Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan had to say in a major address on this topic some seven years ago.
“The industrialization of food production is an especially worrisome trend. Confined animal feeding operations are not farms any more. They’re protein factories with multiple hazards for health and the environment. These hazards come from the crowding of large numbers of animals in very small spaces, the stressful conditions that promote disease, the large quantities of dangerous waste, the need for frequent human contact with the animals.”
(Hog Watch MB supports group housing for breeding sows and straw-based housing for all pigs.)
And, because there’s already evidence that resistance may be spreading through livestock waste, we’re also calling for the phaseout, over the next decade, of all liquid hog manure applications on food crops as a fertilizer.
Missing from the equation - Transparency and accountability
About six weeks ago, Hog Watch MB emailed ******Manitoba Pork, the organization representing the hog industry in this province, for input into these issues. At this writing, it hasn’t responded.
This is consistent with a culture of secrecy which has prevailed inside this very large and controversial industry for years.
According to CIPARS, here’s how the hog industry provides it with data on antibiotic usage. “To preserve the anonymity of participating producers, herd veterinarians collected the samples and data and submitted coded information to PHAC. In the case of corporate herds, confidentiality was ensured through a single corporate herd code for all corporate veterinarians, thus preventing a corporate veterinarian from being associated with a specific herd and protecting anonymity.”
Will this culture of secrecy help or hinder efforts to bring overuse under control?
Since Dec. 2018, it has actually been an infraction under the Food and Drug Act, for producers to give medically-important drugs to their herds, without a prescription from a veterinarian. It’s not believed any violations have been reported, so far.
On the face of it, this would appear to offer the industry plenty of "wiggle room." It is, after all, far from an outright ban.
All of this, we believe, presents a golden opportunity for the Pallister Government to assure Manitobans that usage in this province isn’t still heading in the wrong direction.
While there’s still a place for antibiotic use in agriculture, it must surely be done in ways that are more responsible and transparent than this.
We challenge this Government - Prove that you can be more than just a cheerleader for industry and be a responsible and transparent regulator, instead.
This is an important health issue. And health, after all is a provincial responsibility.
Hog Watch Manitoba is a non-profit coalition of environmentalists, farmers, friends of animals, social justice advocates, trade unions and scientists. We are promoting a hog industry in Manitoba that is ethically, environmentally and economically sustainable.
**World Health Organization - “Stop using antibiotics in healthy animals!”
*****The O’Neill Report
*******The Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS), keeps track of trends in antibiotic usage and the degree to which resistances are developing. Run by the Public Health Agency of Canada, it also works to make sure that these medications, many critical to the health of both animals and humans, are preserved.
********EMAIL TO MANITOBA PORK
Larry Powell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wed., Jan. 6 at 7:36 p.m.
Dear Manitoba Pork,
I'm attaching a story now published on my blog. I would invite your input.
Why did antibiotic use in your industry increase in the time span mentioned?
What has happened with such usage in your industry since 2018?
Do you accept the concerns of medical experts over antibiotic use in livestock?
SHOAL LAKE, MB
Please visit: Planet in Peril - where science gets respect.
AMR MB HOGS
DESPITE LONG-STANDING AND WIDESPREAD WARNINGS OF THE DANGERS, HOG PRODUCERS ON THE CANADIAN PRAIRIES WERE STILL FEEDING MORE ANTIBIOTICS TO THEIR PIGS IN 2018 THAN THEY DID THE YEAR BEFORE. (LATEST FIGS. AVAILABLE.)
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Despite long-standing and widespread warnings of the dangers, hog producers on the Canadian prairies were still feeding more antibiotics to their pigs in 2018 than they did the year before. (Latest figures available.)
by Larry Powell
(Updated - Mar. 5th, 2021)
In 2019, an elite panel of experts - The Council of Canadian Academies - confirmed that thousands of Canadians were already dying each year of "antimicrobial resistance (AMR)." And, with that resistance still growing, up to 400 thousand will likely die of it by mid-century. It calls the problem, “a serious existential threat.”
And, if anyone needs more convincing, here's how Canada's own Chief Public Health Officer puts it.
"Left unchecked, there's risk of losing these medications as an essential life-saving treatment. It's estimated that antibiotic-resistant infections could cause 10 million deaths a year, globally by 2050. This is more than the current annual worldwide deaths from cancer."
AMR happens when too many antibiotics are given (when they're not needed), not only to people, but mostly to livestock (domestic animals raised for food), like cattle, pigs and poultry. (Almost 80% of antibiotics in Canada are used by the livestock sector.)
Producers use them, not only to fight disease in their herds and flocks, but to prevent disease and even promote growth (make their animals grow faster). (See chart, below.)
This has led to the development of "superbugs," in people who eat, not just the contaminated pork, but beef, poultry and eggs, as well. These are bacteria which have grown resistant or downright immune to the drugs which were once effective in treating them.
If more action isn't taken, it appears, the end result will be chilling. Health authorities predict, many human illnesses, including pneumonia, tuberculosis and syphilis, could become incurable.
A report released recently, is revealing.
In its latest 2018 annual report, the federal surveillance group, *CIPARS, states; total quantities of antibiotics distributed for sale in Canadian livestock, increased about five percent over the previous year.
Yet total usage across the country, actually went down. (This is apparently due to a lag time between distribution and use.)
|The green line shows antibiotics fed to hogs on the Prairies. |
(All charts & graphs by CIPARS.)
In Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, however, it was a different story. While inoculating less, producers fed more of these drugs to their herds in 2018 than the year before.
Over that same period, producers in Ontario and Quebec, by contrast, actually fed"significantly less."
It's not just how much - but what kind that matters, too!
Producers across the country, administered nineteen different antibiotics, considered important in the treatment of human infections, to their herds in 2018.
Among the most concerning seems to be ceftiofur. (See graph, below.) It's only used to treat animals, not humans. But, it's feared it could still pass resistance on to another very similar drug in the same class which is a human medication. For that reason, it falls into the category of "very high importance" for treating serious human infections. Few, if any alternatives to this class of drugs are available if they don't work.
|The pink line is ceptiofur. After its usage declined sharply in 2017, |
it was trending upward again.
And the industry group representing hog producers nationally, the Canadian Pork Council, "strictly prohibits" its members from using drugs of highest importance in human medications, just to prevent disease or to promote growth.
Has the poultry sector set an example for others?
In 2014, Canada's poultry growers actually stopped giving drugs classified as being "very highly important" in human medicine, to their flocks. And, according to CIPARS, "This appears to reduce antimicrobial resistance in most scenarios." But the initiative was taken voluntarily by the poultry sector and does not apply to hogs.
CIPARS expects it'll be releasing its 2019 report soon. It also promises to streamline its operations in order to release its findings in a more timely manner.
*What is CIPARS?
By legislation, the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance keeps track of trends in antibiotic usage and the degree to which resistances are developing. Run by the Public Health Agency of Canada, it also works to make sure that these medications, many critical to the health of both animals and humans, are preserved. It is independent of Health Canada.
Below is an email I sent to the group representing the hog industry in this province, asking for their input into my story. They have not responded. l.p.
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