J L Wells
Brexit debates regarding animal welfare are raising concerns for future trading of food animals as the majority of Britain’s ‘high standards’ are a result of European Union (EU) legislation. The writing of the EU withdrawal Bill threatens such standards. With the lack of common regulations across non-EU countries, there comes a risk of encouraging rather than challenging the trading of animals and products reared in insufficient environments and which experience a life of unnecessary suffering before slaughter. Engaging in ‘cheap’ deals with non-EU countries not only compromises the treatment of food animals but also, may increase the presence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a public health concern.
Recent headlines encapsulate public disappointment in the MPs rejection to transferring Article 13 from the Lisbon Treaty into the EU withdrawal bill . The amendment clause presented (NC30) aims to retain the recognition of animals as sentient beings (a principle unspecified in the UK’s critical legislative piece, the 2006 Animal Welfare Act ). Article 13 requires those employed in all aspects of agriculture to follow regulations and ‘pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals’ thus, acknowledging animal’s ability to feel pain, emotions and suffer in similar ways to humans .
Animal sentience is partially responsible for the UK’s ‘world-leading’ welfare standards and regulations . Without these minimum measures being “enshrined in law” there is a possibility, they will be “bargained or negotiated away” for a better deal”  with countries outside of the EU like the USA and China.
The addition of antimicrobials into the feed of food animals is a ‘cost-effective’ method which negatively affects animal welfare and is predicted to endanger the lives of up to 10million people annually, by 2050 due to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections . While the use of antimicrobials may be appropriate for the treatment of diseases (therapeutic use) and therefore relieve the suffering of sick animals; in intensive farming systems, antimicrobials are unregulated, easily accessible and excessively distributed outside of the EU [7&8]. Antibiotics are common in the farming of broiler chickens, with the intentions to prevent diseases (prophylactic) and to aid ‘growth promotion’ (non-therapeutic) [7&8].
Inside of a broiler chicken shed, image from CIWF: Google Images .
Due to selective breeding and the use of growth-promoting antibiotics, the feed conversion ratio is reduced by a substantial 40% in addition to the time between hatching and achieving slaughter weight being halved in the last 30 years . As a result of the rapid growth and selective breeding, the chickens suffer significant and unnatural difficulties. For instance, more weight is carried in the breast muscles, causing an imbalance, therefore placing stress on their legs and joints making standing and walking strenuous. Statistics show that at only 6 weeks old, chickens would spend around 80% of their time laying down and suffered a mortality rate, 7 times higher than laying hens .
Additionally, the chances of the following conditions are increased:
- ruptured tendons and ligaments
- lameness related to the abnormal bone development and infectious diseases that deteriorate the bones like Femoral Head Necrosis caused by a bacterial infection (e.g. E. coli and streptococci)
- degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis
- heart disease
Image of a chicken laying in pain taken from the Compassion in World Farming’s 2005 report .
Broiler chickens and other food animals spend their lifetime in basic settings containing only feeders and litter. Also, they lack natural light, ventilation and space due to high stocking densities thus, the environment they are kept in is suitable for the production and spread of the diseases the antibiotics aim to prevent. Hence, it is suggested that the food animals become ‘healthy carriers’ as they appear to suit the minimum requirements for slaughter but carry hidden infections . According to Animal Aid, the presence of Zoonotic foodborne infections such as Salmonella in ‘healthy carriers’ are ‘contributing to the 5000 deaths a year in England alone’ as a result of humans developing resistant bloodstream infections’ .
World Health Organization’s (2011) Figure 4. above illustrates the epidemiological context in which antibiotics are used and can spread in addition to portraying how closely connected animals, the products they produce and humans are, whether you are a carnivore, vegetarian or vegan .
Participate in the preservation of high welfare standards!
- Sign the petition 
- Contact MPs 
- Consider and/or adapting your diet vegetarian  or vegan 
- Purchase animal products with higher welfare labels [14, 15 & 16].
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