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Ban on antibiotics in animal feed leads to rise in diseases

The Swiss Veterinary Office says a ban on antibiotics in animal feed has led to increase in diseases among slaughter animals. But the office said the rise had been expected, and would taper off as animals developed resistance.

This content was published on January 27, 2000 - 09:23

The Swiss Veterinary Office says a ban on antibiotics in animal feed has led to increase in diseases among slaughter animals. But the office said the rise had been expected, and would taper off as animals developed resistance.

The Federal Veterinary Office issued the report six months after Switzerland became the second European country, after Sweden, to impose a ban on the use of antibiotics in animal feed.

The ban followed heated public debate over fears that antibiotics could be harmful to human health.

The Veterinary Office found that diseases in slaughter-animals, particularly calves and pigs, had risen in the past six months, with the most common ailment being pneumonia.

This means more antibiotics are now being used to treat diseased animals than was the case when antibiotics were contained in feed as a preventive measure.

Veterinary Office spokesman, Dr Heinz Müller, told Swiss Radio International that the increase was expected and should taper off with time.

However, he said it was necessary for farmers to change the way they house slaughter animals. He said it was vital that animals be given more room, and that they spend as much time as possible outside.

As a further precaution, the Veterinary Office warned farmers not to mix animals of different origins, so as to reduce the risk of "imported" diseases.

So far, this advice has met with considerable scepticism from many farmers. Most object to the additional cost of building new facilities and using scarce land for non-productive purposes.

However, the Veterinary Office argues that these initial costs will be offset in the longer term, with healthier animals that require far less costly veterinary care.

Swiss farmers already using the new approach say it works, but that it will take some time to catch on.

Empirical evidence from Sweden suggests it will take about 10 years for animals to develop resistance to diseases currently treated by antibiotics.

By Bob Zanotti

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