Antibiotic Resistance Linked to Animal Agriculture is a Leading Cause of Human Death
A recent study published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet has concluded that antimicrobial resistance has become a leading cause of human death worldwide, killing an estimated 1.2 million people in 2019 alone. By definition, these deaths are for previously treatable infections. The situation is getting worse with each passing day, so if we wish to curb this situation before it becomes truly apocalyptic, we need to take immediate action. On this issue, there is no single action that would do more to alleviate the problem than a societal switch to a plant-based diet.
A fair question to ask is where this resistance to life-saving antibiotics is coming from. In humans, antibiotics are prescribed when there is a bacterial infection present. However, it’s estimated that 80% of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used in animal agriculture, rather than being used to treat ailing humans. On farms, they are administered to all animals in a non-therapeutic manner, or before animals are sick, to improve growth rates and proactively prevent infections. Antibiotics are vitally important, and each time they are used, especially if they are misused or overused, there is a chance that antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, will develop. And yet, despite years of warnings from public health experts including the World Health Organization about how dangerous this is, this is just how it is done in animal agricultural systems.
The Lancet study is the first attempt at a truly global review, covering over 200 countries and territories. It tracked infections linked to 23 pathogens and 88 pathogen-drug combinations and showed that antimicrobial resistance was directly responsible for an estimated 1.27 million deaths, and was associated with 4.95 million deaths worldwide in 2019. Especially disturbing is the finding that while antimicrobial resistance threatens people of all ages, young children who are still developing their immune systems are at especially high risk, with one in five deaths occurring in children under the age of five.
Clearly, government agencies should do something, but they will not do anything significant while 99% of the world’s population still eats animal products and the money spent on these products reinforces Big Ag’s grip on governments. We don’t think anyone wants to live in a world where antibiotics no longer work, and a simple infection could result in an amputated limb, or worse. Animal agriculture is inherently cruel, inflicting suffering and death on trillions of sentient animals each year using abhorrent standard practices. It is also a massive contributor to the climate crisis. As we have established here, and as has been written about in many places, it is also a dangerous threat to the well-being and lives of ourselves and those we care for, even our dog companions. It is time for all of human society to choose to switch to a plant-based diet, a switch that can be made at the individual and household level today.
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If you haven’t switched to a vegan diet, there is no better time to start.