New Delhi, November : World Animal Protection is extremely concerned about the recent incidents of milk contamination coming to light, particularly from peri-urban and urban dairies. Reports about the level of adulteration in milk[i]have previously highlighted public health risks but recent research that found presence of antibiotics in raw milk samples from peri-urban and urban dairies in Gujarat[ii] are even more alarming and could be contributing to the risk of Superbugs.
Irresponsible use of Antibiotics linked to poor welfare conditions of dairy animals and the risk of Superbugs
Last month the Gujarat Forensic Sciences University reported antibiotics in 20% of milk samples from urban and peri-urban dairy animals in Ahmedabad, noting alarming levels of up to three times the limits tolerated by FSSAI in almost half of these samples. Excessive antibiotics can directly lead to the development of bacteria resistant to important antibiotics for both human and animals which become ineffective to treat us when sick. These are otherwise known as Superbugs and rising as a global problem.
The routine overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture has now been recognised by World Health Organisation and the UN as a significant contributor to the problem of Superbugs.
There is substantial evidence that Superbugs can enter the food chain passing directly from farm animals via milk and meat we eat and via antibiotic residues. Superbugs have also been found in water run-off from farms and in manure released from farms. Superbugs currently kill 700,000 people per year, though the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation claims that deaths could amount to 10 million per year costing 100 trillion USD annually by 2050[iii].
Irresponsible and excessive use of antibiotics in dairy farming creates the conditions for Superbugs to emerge. Prior research[iv]on urban dairies in Jaipur, found the presence of resistant bacteria to a range of important antibiotics used on farm, concluding: ‘This reflects the poor quality of milk available to the consumers, lack of adequate hygienic practices, pre-emptive prophylactic regimen and indiscriminate use of antimicrobials.’
Irresponsible and excessive use of antibiotics in the dairy industry is commonly associated with low welfare conditions in these urban and peri – urban dairies – some of the worst cruelty which is happening in your city every day. Rampant use of antibiotics is an indiscriminate compensatory mechanism used to offset the dire conditions in which these animals are kept. These include being tethered round the clock, animals forced to lie in their own urine and feces, no room to lie comfortably and restriction to basic movement like turning around or walking, poor shelter and lack of clean drinking water. All this causes these dairy animals immense stress and health risks, directly leading to injuries, pain and a range of infections in dairy animals, which routinely leads to irresponsible use of antibiotics to treat or prevent infections.
A team from World Animal Protection had recently visited many urban and peri – urban dairies in Delhi and found that the animals were being kept in appalling conditions. Most of these dairies failed to provide even basic welfare to their cows and buffaloes. An earlier consumer survey found that most consumers are unaware of the cruelty in these dairy operations. It was found that most respondents were strictly against any form of cruelty.
“This is a critical issue for the health and welfare of dairy animals and contaminated raw milk is a direct health risk to people consuming milk from peri urban and urban dairies. It could also be entering the packaged milk supply. As a first step, we urge the dairy companies to publicly commit to not sourcing milk from these urban and peri- urban dairies.” Said Gajender K Sharma, India Country Director at World Animal Protection.
Approximately 50 million dairy animals suffer every day in India and a significant number of them suffer the worst form cruelty living in these urban and peri-urban dairies.
World Animal Protection is raising awareness amongst the wider public and consumers on the truth behind milk through The Better Dairy Campaign and is asking people to urge dairy companies to commit to not sourcing milk from urban and peri – urban dairies.