Antibiotics use in healthy animals, WHO news release

A few thoughts following the press release issued by WHO – “Stop using antibiotics in healthy animals to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance”.

The organisation is right in advising livestock farmers around the world to be extra careful. Here are a few considerations from a local perspective to put consumers’ minds at rest!

Malcolm Borg Chicks

Photo by Malcolm Borg, Deputy Director, MCAST Centre of Agriculture, Aquatics & Animal Sciences


– Livestock management varies greatly in different countries around the world! One simply cannot compare the procedures adopted in the EU, especially in Malta, to what happens in other continents.

– Antibiotics come at a considerable cost. Livestock production is a business, therefore costs are part of the equation. Preventive measures (management and vaccines) need to be exhausted before farmers opt for antibiotics. In the local context, we are very far from the idea if applying antibiotics when an animal is healthy! This simply does not make sense for our small-scale farming.

– Can we leave sick animals to die? Of course not. If an animal is sick, farmers need to follow welfare measures and cure the animal. Obviously, any products with antibiotics residue cannot reach the market. Rest assured this does not happen in Malta since very rigorous tests are carried out by the Veterinary Services all year round – for each batch.

– Last but not least, do Maltese consumers go into the detail about the source of the meat they buy? I have been following consumer trends for some years now… the majority of consumers look for convenience and price. One cannot expect to have the best at the cheapest price! Local meat is usually more expensive due to economies of scale, but also due to the many regulations which dictate what happens on local farms. This is why local meat is in my opinion safer. Facts show that farm standards in Malta are far better than those in many other countries from where cheaper meat is imported.

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