Negative health impacts will only get worse as the demand for meat continues to grow considering that by 2030, meat consumption is projected to grow by 30 percent in Africa.
According to the World Animal Protection (WAP), this skyrocketing demand has seen billions of stressed animals mutilated and confined to cramped and barren cages or pens for their whole lives.
In their research findings released today in a report dubbed “The Hidden Health Impacts of Industrial Livestock Systems in Africa’, rising human illnesses is from consumption of livestock derived foods containing food safety hazards
According to the report, most damaging human health impact has been linked to industrial livestock production systems including emergence of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and yet governments around the world are turning a blind eye to the public health toll of factory farming as well as the suffering of billions of farmed animals.
WAP says that report builds on the concept of five pathways “through which food systems negatively affect our health” as outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their 2021 report Food Systems Delivering Better Health.
Speaking during the release of the report, Dr. Victor Yamo, Farming Campaigns Manager at WAP said that the emergence of Antimicrobial Resistance in Africa is driven by weak regulatory capacity of government agencies charged with the responsibility of managing the production, registration, distribution and utilization of these products leading to the rampant misuse.
“The law requires that antimicrobial drugs be purchased against a prescription, but our farmers can purchase the same over the counter without a prescription,” he said
Dr. Yamo added that the situation is further compounded by the inadequate extension personnel on the ground to advice the farming community on innovative and good animal welfare, animal husbandry and animal health practices which would render the need for use of antimicrobial drugs unnecessary.
Dr. Lian Thomas, Scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi said that health of farmed animals and their environment must be a high priority for the public health sector.
“Sustainable food systems which promote good animal health and welfare, and environmental protection, will directly protect human health,” he said
Dr. Thomas noted that Industrial livestock farming requires the production of a high density of genetically homogenous animals, which leads to the quick spread of diseases many of which can directly affect human health.
Systemic shifts will therefore be needed to deliver the biggest health gains for the population which include re-orientating subsidies away from factory farming towards humane and sustainable practices, improving affordability of plant-based foods, and providing transition support for farmers no longer wishing to engage in factory farming.
Jacqueline Mills, Head of Farming, at World Animal Protection, said that Industrial Livestock Production systems are not only cruel to the animals that they produce but are also making human sick.
“On the surface, the meat, eggs, fish and dairy products produced by these systems seem cheap, but they are costing us our health and our governments trillions of dollars each year to mop up the damage they cause,” she said.
Mill said there is therefore need to break the cycle of suffering of the animals in the food system and that the food industry needs to embrace a humane and sustainable future where farmed animals are kept in genuinely high welfare systems where they can have good lives.
“Now is the time for governments to focus on better health outcomes for farmed animals, people and the planet. We need a moratorium on Industrial Livestock Production systems,” Mill added
To make these shifts, WAP has called upon African governments to impose a moratorium on Industrial livestock production systems, introduce and enforce higher farmed animal welfare standards like the Farm Animals Responsible Minimum Standards (FARMS)
The commitment in the form of a moratorium on industrial livestock production systems should also be within the National Climate Action Plans in recognition of these systems contribution to climate impacts.
The African governments must also develop and implement national One Health, One Welfare action plans and national Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) plans that recognize the health impacts of industrialized livestock and restrict its growth.
The report has highlighted that three-quarters of the world’s antibiotics are used in farmed animals, either to prevent them getting sick, promote fast growth or treat disease, a practice driving the emergence of superbugs (antimicrobial resistant bacteria), which leaves us less able to fight infections.
New research has found that 1.27 million people die each year from superbugs, and it is estimated that by 2050 this will be the leading cause of death globally.