By M Djuric, DVM
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently issued a guidance document on the use of antibiotics in farm animals. The document notes that excessive use leads to the spread of antibiotic-resistant diseases in both animals and humans. In the document, the FDA proposes that pharmaceutical companies voluntarily change some of their labelling and marketing practices to help phase out the use of certain antibiotics for enhanced food production.
All the drugs affected by this plan are antibacterial products, which have long been approved for the treatment, control or prevention of animal diseases. However, the same antibiotics are often added to the animal feed or drinking water of cattle, pigs, and poultry to gain weight faster or use less feed to gain weight.
The agency is asking animal pharmaceutical companies to notify the FDA within the next three months of their intent to voluntarily make the changes recommended in the guidance document. Based on timeframes set out in the guidance document, companies would then have three years to fully implement these changes.
By Miroslav Djuric, DVM, CAB International
The second report of the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare has been published with the expertise and support of animal welfare organisations, Compassion in World Farming (CWF) and World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).
70 companies from across Europe and the USA were assessed, representing food retailers and wholesalers, restaurants and food producers and manufacturers. Companies were assigned into six tiers according to their approach to the management of farm animal welfare and across three categories: Management Commitment and Policy, Governance and Policy Implementation and Leadership and Innovation.
The Report showed that 56% of companies have published formal farm animal welfare policies in 2013 (compared with 46% in 2012) and that 41% have published objectives and targets for farm animal welfare compared with 26% in 2012.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that giving animals a better environment makes them less stressed, less likely to behave abnormally, and sometimes more productive. However, most of that evidence comes from small-scale trials, and scaling improvements up to the practicalities of large farms could prove costly and burdensome. Is it environmental enrichment a realistic option for farmers?
In an article in CAB Reviews, Laura Dixon of the Scottish Agriculture College looks at the practicalities and how environments can be improved. She says that the main approaches are through providing foraging opportunities, structural complexity, sensory stimulation or novelty, and social stimulation from other animals or humans. The type of enrichment that helps differs from animal to animal – poultry benefit from perches, while ducks prefer water troughs. Allowing birds to forage or to use water troughs and dust baths has been shown to reduce abnormal behaviour, and often leads to better growth. However, the “wilder” environment can be difficult to clean and need more maintenance, with more risk of disease.