Intensive poultry farming will leave all of us sick in the longer term

2 December 2015

The problem of resistance to antibiotics when used in serious medical conditions is alarming and is linked to:

  • the extensive use of antibiotics in animal populations intended for human consumption; and
  • the routine prescription of antibiotic drugs to humans.

This has to be tackled. The Green Party calls for an end to antibiotic overload in farming and human health management. This is essential for human health and animal welfare and inaction is not an option.

The news this week of bacteria that are now resistant to the antibiotics of last resort should be of great concern to all of us. The origin of this problem is quite complex but contributory factors are the long-term prescription of antibiotics for every manner of infections in humans, and the very common use of antibiotics in intensive livestock farming in the UK. 45% of antibiotics used in the UK are used in agriculture. 90% of these are used in intensive pig and poultry units where high levels of stress are common and immune systems can be compromised.

The increase in the number of intensive poultry farming applications that have been approved in Shropshire during 2015 should give us particular cause for concern. A discussion of the antibiotics problem has not been part of the assessment in the submission of new planning applications and we suggest that it MUST now form part of the overall human and environmental impact assessment of these projects.

Green Party Ballot in Bishops CastleDuring a series of open events this year, the Green Party conducted ballots on the subject of farming, asking the public to vote on the proposition:

  • Farming policies & payments should encourage farming methods that are not antibiotic-dependent, ensure high standards of animal welfare & wildlife conservation, and enable a viable living for small farms and families. Do you agree or disagree?

Of the votes cast at the Green Fair in Ludlow and Bishop's Castle's Michaelmas Fair, 100% and 99.3%, respectively, voted in favour of the proposition.

Interestingly, a number of health workers voted in this ballot and were encouraged by our inclusion of the need to change farming methods dependent on antibiotic use. We further note that these issues do not arise in organic farming systems as antibiotics are not used, other than in exceptional circumstances.

The results of this vote show that a significant sample (453 voted) of the UK public would prefer a different sort of farming in our countryside – one that is at odds with the implementation of EU post-war farming policy (the CAP) and subsidy deployment. The Green Party calls for farming policies and payments to ensure that small farms are viable, that intensive, livestock-based farms - which rely on routine antibiotics to counter the effects of the diseases that animals often suffer in these systems - are ended, and that taxpayer monies are used to enable, not destroy, wildlife-friendly farming practices. The almost unanimous 'Yes' vote in our ballot suggests that there is an overwhelming wish that farming subsidies, policies and practices should change to support more sustainable farming.

For further information please contact Dr David Gibbon, Spokesperson on Food & Farming, on 01694-328567 or via