This statement was in the title of the symposium Together strong for a reduction in antibiotics and a more natural approach to livestock farming, organised by Natuurlijke Veehouderij (Natural Livestock Farming) in Zwolle in November 2016. The conference hall was packed with farmers, farmers’ representatives, researchers and students from Wageningen University as well as staff from the ministry of Economic Affairs antibiotic work group, veterinary specialists, animal food producers and organisations concerned with animal welfare.
The symposium had two objectives: to provide factual information on how antibiotics are being used in dairy and beef production, and to analyse this problem and suggest ways in which farmers could be encouraged to reduce this reliance.
It was clear that FAO/WHO statistics relating to the extent of antibiotic resistance in India, Africa and Latin America shocked those present. In those regions antibiotics to deal with animal health problems can be bought at the local corner shop. But presentations also revealed that antibiotics were not only found in milk and dairy products, but even in our cosmetics.
The EU is particularly concerned about the preventive use of antibiotics in the European livestock industry and has set up a pressure group to come up with strategies to reduce antibiotic abuse.
Natuurlijke Veehouderij has been working with veterinary specialists in several countries to ensure that farmers have the information they need to deal with the health problems and natural resistance of their cattle. Examples of this approach are the holistic agro-ecological method that ensures good healthy pastures and roughage, careful inter-breeding, and the way herbal remedies can be used to deal with infections such as mastitis and diarrhoea.
The recent report from the Social and Economic Council (SER) Versnelling Duurzame Veehouderij (Speeding up the process of sustainable livestock farming) reinforces the conclusions and approach of Katrien van ‘t Hooft and the Natuurlijke Veehouderij initiative. In particular the conclusion that steps should be taken to develop a sustainable livestock sector in the Netherlands, especially as the income of cattle farmers, the environment and the health of rural people and animals are increasingly at risk.
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