Antibiotic resistance has been a threat for well-being of growing populations for quite some time now. This topic is even more important to companies in the animal farming space as ESG initiatives are at the forefront of conversation. In the United States, antibiotic-resistant infections currently give rise to 2.8 million illnesses and 35,000 deaths in the United States each year at a cost of between $50B and $70B.(4) Globally, drug-resistant diseases kill 700,000 people each year. According to the UN General Assembly, “If no action is taken, drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and damage to the economy as catastrophic as the 2008–2009 global financial crisis.”(5)
Antibiotics, medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections, are commonly used in animal farming for its reasons to prevent disease from certain practices and the ability to increase production. The issue we are facing is that the overuse of antibiotics in animals has led to dangerous levels of bacteria resistance to antibiotics.
As reported by WHO “Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today. A growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and salmonellosis – are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.” (1)
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these antibiotics. The bacteria are what becomes antibiotic resistant and can be passed through to the consumer even if it does not affect the animal. Once the bacteria are resistant to the antibiotic used against it, its treatment becomes more challenging and allows the resistance to spread. (2) Thus, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. (1)
For example, “When antibiotics are mixed with fish food, residual antibiotics may be found in fish products and fish meat. People who eat these products will be inadvertently consuming antibiotics, leading to changes in their normal microbial environment, or ‘microflora’ and making them more susceptible to bacterial infection.” said Dr Cabello, at New York Medical College (3)
As the overuse of antibiotics continues, our world is affected as a whole. Antibiotic resistance threatens our ability to treat common diseases, which leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs, and increased mortality. (1) There have been several initiatives rolled out by shareholder services and proxy advisory firms to monitor and vote with the investment dollars against supporting businesses that overuse antibiotics in animal production. Major buyers of protein, such as Yum! Brands, Costco, Walmart, and McDonalds committed to reduce their exposure to antibiotic-treated protein and opted to increase their purchasing of plant-based alternatives and meats where these drugs have not been used, especially as a preventive measure while raising animals in overcrowded conditions. The animal farming industry is headed in the direction of increased scrutiny and vigilance as it comes to use of antibiotics and each of us, as a consumer, investor, or an activist can do our part in selecting healthy protein for our family and our economy, instead of supporting unethical farming where increase of profit is the only goal pursued.
Companies need to pivot and take preventative measures to help fight antibiotic resistance and provide transparency about their processes. Additionally, as ESG initiatives become more important to investors, it’s a must for companies to put the right measures in place. Investors want clear data around these issues so that they can make the most impactful investment decisions for themselves, and clients. With our ESGiQ platform, we allow companies to report on all ESG measures that pertain to their industry and provide the ability to see what areas they can improve.
- World Health Organization – Antibiotic Resistance Fact Sheet
- The Ethical Dilemma Behind Antibiotics in Animal Feed
- Over-use of antibiotics in fish-for-food industry encourages bacterial resistance and disease, Eureka Alert
- Centers for Disease Control, “Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance (AR/AMR),” March 13, 2020, accessed June 1, 2020, ; Infectious Disease Society of America, “Antimicrobial Resistance,” accessed June 5, 2020, .
- General Assembly of the United Nations, “High Level Interactive Dialogue on Antimicrobial Resistance,” accessed June 15, 2020