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Posted: November 15, 2016


The Factory Farm Factor

Key medical procedures like Caesarean sections and hip replacements may soon become too dangerous to perform unless a solution can be found to the dramatic escalation in drug-resistant infections.

Since the introduction of factory farming in the 1950’s, trillions of factory farmed animals crammed into squalid conditions, have been fed antibiotics routinely - to suppress infection and accelerate growth. But this practice has come back to bite us! Antibiotics have steadily lost their potency as bacteria, fungi and parasites slowly but surely developed a resistance, bringing about a new era of  ‘superbugs’  The latest antibiotic to become a victim of the superbug phenomenon is the life-saving Colistin.

Commissioned by the UK government, the recently released Final Report on Tackling Drug-Resistant infections Globally predicts that while some 700 000 deaths a year are currently due to Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), this figure may  escalate to 10 million annually by 2050 and surgical procedures which have become a routine part of modern medicine, like caesarean sections, hip replacements, or gut surgery, will become too risky to perform – because of the risk of post-operative infection and the failure of antibiotics to stop it.

AMR threatens to become a 'devastating problem’ and ‘one of the biggest health threats that mankind faces now, and in the coming decades', according to the report.    The report calls for:

  •         An urgent reduction in the “extensive and unnecessary use of antibiotics in agriculture”

  •         Speeding up of efforts globally to measure antibiotic use in farming practices

  •         Restricting the use in animal agriculture of certain types of highly critical ‘last-line’ antibiotics in human medicine

  •         Improving transparency from food producers on the antibiotics used to raise the meat we eat


Research sponsored by Compassion in World Farming (SA) at the University of the Western Cape’s Food Microbiology department, found residue of the antibiotic Tetracycline in the flesh of all 10 factory farmed supermarket chickens randomly selected for testing. Professor of Food Microbiology, Pieter Gouws confirmed to CIWF(SA) that the situation is dire. He said: “There is little doubt that the situation in respect of antibiotic resistance is grim.”

Professor of Food Microbiology, Pieter Gouws


Elloise du Toit, a microbiologist at the University of Cape Town, has researched possible solutions to antibiotic dependence in the ostrich industry which is valued at R1.2 billion annually with 90% of ostrich meat exported to the EU.

Elloise explains: “Antibiotic resistant superbugs are real and will impact on our children’s generation more than ours. However, animal agriculture remains dependent on antibiotics to raise animals in highly stressful conditions. Ostrich chicks, for example, suffer from distress from the minute they hatch.


"Stress and stress-related diseases can result in a 90% fatality which obviously has serious financial implications for the farmer. So the antibiotic Tylosin is in common use."

As with everything, there are consequences. Sadly, our children will likely  bear the devastating consequences of our prevailing  dependence on antibiotics to perpetuate farming systems that impose massive stress and suffering on animals.    




Ostrich chicks are born without immunity to disease. In natural conditions, they are caprophytic which means they eat their mother’s stool and thereby get their mother’s probiotics which act as an initial inoculate against disease.  

However, in industrialised farming, the eggs hatch in a sterile incubator and the chicks are taken to high-density, overcrowded indoor pens with mesh flooring to allow their droppings to fall through.


Ostrich chicks have their nails and the bed of their nails permanently removed to stop them leaving marks on the hides of other chicks.


Jam-packed in pens, the only shiny things they see, are each other’s eyes. Losing an eye is common among these birds.


The chicks are allowed outdoors for the first time at about four months old.


Prone to stress, ostrich chicks and juveniles suffer a high degree of diarrhoea. Pathogenic-induced prolapses are common whereby the guts fall out of the rectum. The guts are washed and pushed back in with the help – literally – of a safety pin as a stitch.


They are slaughtered at around 10 - 14 months.



Compassion’s CONSULTANT COLUMNIST on healthy eating.

As Global Antibiotics Awareness Week gets underway today, Compassion in World Farming (South Africa) is privileged to introduce supporters to Precious Ncayiyana.

Ms Ncayiyana is a Johannesburg pharmacist currently studying for a Masters of Science in Medicine Bioethics and Health Law at Wits University. She has been a supporter of Compassion in World Farming (SA) since 2012 and campaigns for a national mindset of “EATING HEALTHY!”

“As a pharmacist”, she says, “it is so clear to me that 90% of all illnesses are caused by the food we eat, and therefore, are self-inflicted.

“Teaching a nation to eat correctly, saves a nation. ”


Ms Ncayiyana’s first column for Compassion coincides with Global Antibiotics Awareness Week – and regular updates on EATING HEALTHY will follow.

This week she deals with the challenge posed by SUPERBUGS!

Precious Ncayiyana

My area of interest is the use of antibiotics in animal farming.

What are the main benefits of using antibiotics in animal Farming?

  •         They minimise the transmission of infections from animals to humans

  •         They allow farmers to have more animals per square metre thereby reducing the cost of raising the animals, which means that     consumers can buy their meat products at affordable prices.

What are the harms caused by the use of antibiotics in animal farming?

The constant addition of antibiotics to animal feeds and water causes pathogens to mutate and become resistant.

The resistant bacteria originating from animals when transmitted to humans can cause fatal infections because the antibiotics currently on the market are now ineffective against most superbugs.


How do we preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics?

Reducing the demand for antibiotics is the most effective way for doing so.

There are 7 billion people in the world and over 70 billion animals. Therefore, restricting the use of  antibiotics in animal farming would have more impact.

However, it is not possible to farm without antibiotics in Intensive Factory Farming because of poor sanitary conditions that can lead to outbreaks of disease.

This means that the way forward is to get rid of Intensive Factory Farms.

The only sustainable way of farming is the one that provides better animal husbandry and the one that uses antibiotics in the treatment of sick animals only.


  •         Remember not to demand antibiotics when they are not indicated e.g. for viral infections like colds

  •         Once antibiotics are prescribed, finish the course

  •         Never share your antibiotics

  •         Reduce consumption of animal protein

  •         Choose Free Range whenever possible

  •         Spread the word and raise awareness

  •         Remember not a single person will not be affected by Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Do your bit.

By Precious Ncayiyana