The chirps of tiny chicks and grown chickens fill the air, as carefree chickens walk about happily in the coop, basking in the morning sun. This is the ideal portrait of a poultry farm, but one that’s very rare to find. Sadly in the pursuit to feed low cost protein to the ever growing populace, poultry farmers resorted to shocking and unethical means to get the fowls to grow faster. The farmers started feeding antibiotics to poultry as a part of their feed, this ensured that chickens grew faster while resisting any infection, their greed didn’t go unnoticed; in fact it has a lasting impact. Today antibiotic laden chickens are everywhere and we who consume it find ourselves damaging our immune system. It’s important to leave kids with a better world where they stay healthy, that is why this has to stop, we have to get back to grand old days when chickens pecked our grains and chickens were protein packed rather than vehicles of antibiotic.
How did we get here
First, low doses of antibiotics were mixed with feed and water to accelerate their growth and protect fowl from illnesses. This causes antibiotic resistant bacteria to develop in the guts of the animals. Animal waste contaminated with bacteria migrates off farms and slowly enters the ecosystem around it through crops, air and water. The bacteria from the guts of the animals spreads through the meat during slaughter and processing. Humans handle and eat the meat and infected produce, breathe the air and get antibiotic-resistant bacteria on their skin or in their bodies that can cause serious, hard to treat infections.
Antibiotics – how they harm you
Antibiotics are drugs that kill bacteria and therefore help us fight bacterial infections. From battling diseases like tuberculosis to preventing infections during and after surgeries, antibiotics are crucial to saving lives. Without them, everything from a simple hip replacement surgery to an organ transplant could be fatal.
So then, why is giving chicken antibiotics a bad thing? Well, because of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are effective when they are used sparingly. Taking them too often gives the bacteria a chance to adapt to the antibiotic and mutate itself in a way that the antibiotic cannot harm it. The antibiotic becomes useless against that bacterial infection, and we can no longer cure it.
Antibiotic resistance – a threat to health
At first glance, this might not seem like a serious problem. But the long term effects prove otherwise. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), antibiotics resistance is one of the greatest threats to health today. The WHO released a report in 2015 warning about the effects of antibiotic overuse and the increasing levels of antibiotic resistance. The report urges doctors to use antibiotics sparingly and prescribe them only when absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, chicken farmers in India are doing the exact opposite.
A study by researcher Ramanan Laxminarayan estimates 58,000 newborn deaths in 2003 in India due to bacterial infections that cannot be treated by antibiotics. It was found that 6.7% of bacteria that spread in hospitals were resistant to all antibiotics. According to him, India has the highest rate of antibiotic resistance in the world! Without regulations to control the use of antibiotics in livestock, their easy procurement without prescriptions, it becomes hard to control their usage in India.
Some of the antibiotics used in India are not approved for poultry in the United States, Canada, European Union and Australia. These are however, legal in India.
What we can do about it
Insist on antibiotic free chicken! Join us in fighting this war against antibiotic free chicken. We have a group of farmers who have consciously taken it upon themselves to use antibiotics only as a medicine and not a feed for the poultry. We encourage them by procuring only from such farmers. We also test the chickens if they have any antibiotic residue before they reach you. Help us support these farmers and let’s create a better world for our kids.