The Alliance to Save our Antibiotics

The Soil Association has been researching and campaigning against the overuse of antibiotics for farm animals for many years. In 2011 we were delighted to join forces with Sustain and Compassion in World Farming to form the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics. Joining with two such respected NGO partners will allow us to all amplify our messages, and hopefully be more effective at reducing the overuse of antibiotics on farms to reduce the potential impact on human health. New antibiotics are now rarely developed and the Alliance aims to 'Save our Antibiotics', by preventing their overuse within EU farming.

The Alliance's first report was launched to coincide with the publication of the European Commission's 5-year strategy on antimicrobial resistance and European Antibiotic Awareness Day in November 2011. The report, Case Study of a Health Crisis [PDF 2.4MB] calls for the overall use of antibiotics on EU farms to be halved by 2015 – with an emphasis on ending all routine, prophylactic use. We also call for major restrictions placed on the farm use of antibiotics that are 'critically important' in human medicine. 

Restricting the use of antibiotics would have profound impacts, not just on human health, but for animal welfare as well. Antibiotics are being over-used because factory farmed animals live caged, confined lives in stressful conditions, are weaned very early, and are often physiologically stretched to the limit to maximise their productivity. While we advocate the essential need to retain antibiotic treatment for sick animals, improving the conditions under which most farm animals are kept should significantly reduce this need.

Professor Christopher Butler, Head of the Institute of Primary Care and Public Health at Cardiff University writes in the foreword to our report:

Antibiotics have saved numerous lives and have rightly been termed ‘wonder’ drugs. However, more and more antibiotics have been consumed for less and less benefit in many settings. All too often, antibiotics are prescribed in situations where the risk of harm outweighs the chance of benefit from the antibiotics. A significant contribution comes from over-reliance on routine use of antibiotics in intensive farming. It is not tenable to regard animal medicine as having marginal relevance to human health. Systems are interlinked. The challenge now is to focus on antibiotic stewardship programmes that take a holistic view, incorporating all domains of antibiotic use suggesting this is a widespread problem.

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics in poultry production

In November 2012, we called on the Minister of State for Agriculture to ban the use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics in poultry production to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance in campylobacter and other infections in humans.

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Support our campaign

You can support our crucial work on antibiotics by becoming a member of the Soil Association or by making a donation.

Our campaign

Antibiotic resistance in farm animals is a growing problem, with far-reaching implications for human health. The Soil Association has been working on this issue for many years:

  • 1985: First organic standards restricting the use of antibiotics
  • 1995–2005: Campaign, including two reports, lobbying and press releases, leading to the banning of all antibiotic growth promoters thoughout the EU 2001–2004: Published reports exposing high residue levels of toxic drugs in chicken and eggs. Two of three drugs highlighted now banned by EU, a third under voluntary restriction by UK egg producers
  • 2003: Exposed the illegal use of the antibiotic avilamycin in broiler-chicken production
  • 2004: Exposed the pig industry's continuing use of antibiotics for growth promotion
  • 2006: Exposed the farm-antibiotic link to ESBL E.coli
  • 2007: Published a report on MRSA in farm animals and meat
  • 2011: Joined with Compassion in World Farming and Sustain to form the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics

You can support this crucial work on antibiotics by becoming a member of the Soil Association or by making a donation.