The pandemic has highlighted the importance of being prepared for emerging public health threats. But although antibiotics are the bedrock of modern medicine, widespread misuse in animal farming is helping to create dangerous superbugs. The threat is not as immediately obvious as a viral pandemic, but antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has the power to return us to the Victorian era, where surviving even simple surgery could become a lottery.
Misuse and overuse of antibiotics within industrial animal farming is recognised as a leading cause of the rise in AMR. Animals are predominately given antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes such as growth promotion and preventative treatment of groups of healthy animals – so-called prophylactic use.
When engaging with animal health companies, investors and their representatives should press for them to credibly demonstrate their understanding of the material risks and opportunities linked to AMR, and their preparedness to meet these across their full value chain of manufacturing, sales, marketing, R&D and AMR stewardship.
We engage with protein producers, animal health companies, consumer goods companies, retailers and restaurants to ensure that responsible antibiotic practices are put in place. We ask companies to provide public disclosure of antibiotic policies banning the use of antibiotics for growth promotion purposes and restricting the preventative use of medically important antibiotics. Time-bound reduction targets should be made public and transition plans for antibiotic replacements introduced.
This article appears in our Q3 2021 Public Engagement Report.