The urgent case for antibiotic-free animals | Leon Marchal

Translator: Ivana Korom
Reviewer: Krystian Aparta There was a time
when simple infections were deadly, but now, thanks to the wide
availability of antibiotics, this is merely a relic of the past. But actually, I should say “was,” because nowadays,
we’re using antibiotics so much that the bacteria
that cause these infections are becoming resistant. And that should really scare
the hell out of all of us. If we do not change our behavior
and wean ourselves off antibiotics, the UN predicts that by 2050, antimicrobial resistance
will become our single biggest killer. So we must start to act. But “where to begin”
is an interesting question, because we humans are not
the only ones using antibiotics. Worldwide, 50 to 80 percent
of all antibiotics are used by animals. Not all of these are critical
for human health, but if we do not get it
under control right now, we’re looking at a very scary future
for humans and animals alike. To begin, let’s talk
about how we ended up here. The first large-scale use of antibiotics
was in the early ’50s of the last century. In the Western world,
prosperity was increasing and people wanted to eat
more animal protein. When animals were sick,
you could now treat them with antibiotics so they did not die and kept growing. But soon, it was discovered that adding small and regular amounts
of antibiotics to the feed kept the animals healthy, made them grow faster and caused them to need less feed. So these antibiotics worked well — really well, actually. And with increasing animal production, also antibiotic use skyrocketed worldwide. Unfortunately,
so did antibiotic resistance. The reason your doctor tells you
to finish the entire bottle of antibiotics is if you shorten your dose,
you will not kill all of the bugs. And the ones that stick around
build up the antibiotic resistance. It’s the same problem with giving animals
small and regular doses of antibiotics: some bad bugs die but not all of them. Spread that across an entire industry, and you can understand
that we accidentally build up a large reservoir
of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. But I hate to break it to you — the problem doesn’t stop there. You know who else takes antibiotics? Fluffy, your cat, and Rover, your dog. (Laughter) Pets rank even amongst
the heaviest users of all, and they use antibiotics that are much more critical
for human health. Combine this with how close
we live with our companion animals and you understand the risk of you picking up antibiotic-resistant
bacteria from your own pet. But how do these
antibiotic-resistant bacteria in farm animals affect you? Let me give you an example
we have, actually, data on. The levels of antibiotic-resistant
salmonella in pigs in Europe against different types of antibiotics range from less than a percent
to as high [as] 60 percent. Which means that in most cases, this antibiotic will not work anymore
to kill this salmonella. And there was a high correlation between antibiotic-resistant
salmonella in the pig and in the final product. Whether that is pork chop, spare ribs or minced meat. Now, luckily, typically
less than one percent of all raw meat, fish or eggs will contain salmonella. And this only poses a risk
when not treated well. Still, there are over 100,000
human salmonella cases in the EU and more than a million cases in the US. In the US, leading
to 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 people dead each year. With antibiotic-resistant
salmonella on the rise, this death toll is likely to increase. But it’s not only
about consuming yourself. This year, more
than 100 people got infected with a multidrug-resistant salmonella after feeding pig ears,
as a treat, to their dog. So we really must cut back
on antibiotic use in animal production. And luckily, this is starting to happen. The EU was the first region to ban putting antibiotics
in low doses in the feed. From ’99 on, in several steps, the amount of different types
of antibiotics allowed was reduced, and in 2006, a complete ban
went into place. Antibiotics were only allowed when a veterinarian determined
the animal was sick. Sounds great, right? Problem solved. No, wait, not so fast. As soon as the reduction program started, it was very quickly discovered that antibiotics had been
the perfect blanket to cover up a lot of bad farm practices. More and more animals became sick and needed to be
cured with … antibiotics. So instead of the total amount going down, it actually increased. Surely, that was not the way to go. But luckily, that was not
the end of the story. The whole European agricultural sector
started on a journey, and I think it’s a journey
anybody can learn from. This is also the time
I personally entered the scene. I joined a large European feed compounder. A feed compounder makes a total diet
for a farmer to feed to his animals and often also provides the advice on how to raise the animals
in the best way. I was really motivated
to work together with my colleagues, veterinarians and, of course, the farmers to figure out how to keep the animals
healthy and antibiotic-free. Now there are three major things
that need to happen for antibiotic-free production. Let me walk you through the playbook. To start — and it sounds very obvious — that our hygiene is the place to start. Better cleaning of the stable
and the drinking-water lines making it harder for the disease
to come in and spread across the stable. That’s all very important, but the part I was personally
most interested in was better feeding for the animals, better nutrition. Feeding a well-balanced diet is important. Think about it this way: when you yourself do not eat
enough fiber, you do not feel well. Part of the food you consume
is not digested by yourself but fermented in your large
intestine by bacteria. So you’re feeding those microbes
with part of your diet. Initially, most young animals
were fed low-fiber, high-starch and protein, very finely ground
and highly digestible diets. Like being yourself on a diet
of hamburger buns, rice, waffles and protein bars. We changed this to a lower-protein, higher-fiber, coarser type of diet. Like being on a diet of whole grains,
salad with meat or beans. This shifted the bacterial flora
in the animals’ guts to the more beneficial ones and reduced the chance
that pathogens would flourish. You might be surprised but not only diet composition,
also diet structure plays a role. Simply the fact
that the same diet is coarser will lead to a better-developed
digestive tract, and thus, a healthier animal. But the best part was that farmers
started to buy this actually, too. Unlike some other parts of the world, Western European farmers mainly still make
their independent buying decisions: who to buy the feed from
and sell their animals to. So what you’re actually selling in the end reflects the actual local need
of these farmers. For example, the protein content in piglet diets in countries that are much more vigilant
in reducing antibiotics, like, for example,
Germany and the Netherlands, were already 10 to 15 percent lower than in a country like the UK,
which was slower to pick this up. But, like with better hygiene,
better nutrition helps but will not totally prevent you
from becoming sick. So more is needed. And that’s why we turned
to the microbiome. Making the water with the feed more acidic helps to create an environment that benefits the more beneficial bacteria and inhibits the pathogens. Like fermented food, whether it’s yogurt, sauerkraut or salami, they’ll all spoil less quickly, too. Now, with modern techniques, like the ones based on DNA testing, we can see that there are many more
different microorganisms present. And this ecosystem,
which we call the microbiome, is much more complex. Turns out there are about eight times
more microorganisms in your gut as tissue cells in your body. And for animals, the impact is no less. So if we want to work
without antibiotics in animal production, we have to make the animals
much more robust. So that when a disease strikes, the animals are much more resilient. And this three-pronged
nutribiosis approach involving the host, nutrition
and the microbiome is the way to do it. Now the practice of raising animals
on an antibiotic-containing or antibiotic-use-provoking diet
is a bit cheaper at farm level. But in the end, we are talking about
a few percent at the consumer level. That’s actually quite affordable for the middle- and high-income
part of the world population. And a very small price to pay when our own health
or our loved ones’ health is at stake. So what do you think,
what direction do we take? Do we allow antimicrobial resistance
to become our biggest killer, at huge financial
and a special personal cost? Or do we, besides reducing
human antibiotic consumption, truly start embracing
antibiotic-free animal production? For me, the choice is very obvious. But to make this happen, we have to set reduction targets and make sure that they’re followed
all around the world. Because farmers compete with each other. And at a country level, trading block or the global market, costs are very important. And also, we have to be realistic. Farmers need to have the possibilities to invest more in better
management and better feed in order to achieve this reduction. And besides legal limits,
the market can play a role, by offering antibiotic-reduced
or antibiotic-free products. And with growing consumer awareness, these market forces
will increase in power. Now everything I’ve been talking about
seems to be great for us. But what about the animals? Now, guess what,
their lives get better, too. Better health, less stress, happier life. So now you know. We have the knowledge
how to produce meat, eggs and milk without or with very low
amounts of antibiotics, and I’ll argue it’s a small price to pay to avoid a future
in which bacterial infections again become our biggest killer. Thank you. (Applause)

63 thoughts on “The urgent case for antibiotic-free animals | Leon Marchal

  1. Screw the animals, where’s the urgent case against the vaccinations that are killing or disabling our CHILDREN??
    Instead, we are seeing more of a push to administer them against parents’ will despite the SCIENCE that proves many deaths and disabilities are directly linked back to some vaccines. To me, THAT is the real threat to human health because children cannot choose their diets or healthcare.

  2. We don't need anti-biotic free animal agriculture in the 21st century, we just need animal free agriculture, it doesn't take a genious to work this out at present. Why are people so dim and desperate for "bacon tho"…

  3. Come on now, everybody likes a healthy dose of Doxycycline and Metronidazole in their McCkicken sandwich. The one that came from a gigantic 48 pound chicken that was pumped full of growth hormone. Yummy!

  4. I just heard someone said that human extinction is predicted to be caused by resistance to antibiotics, 10 minute later TED posted this, what are the odds 😮

  5. I really wish that good people who do nothing would rise up and take over these bad people who will do anything including torture and murder to sustain their power. If good people do not start showing up for work, the evil people are going to take more. We don't need marble tubs and gold faucets. We need to grow up. Good people are going to have to do something because the bad people at the top will do anything to obtain and keep what belongs to all of us.

  6. Or we could just not breed and kill billions of animals. Animal husbandry is unnecessary, deadly, bad for the environment and morally problematic.

  7. Well.. no human need meat. Thats just another reason why its bad for humanity. Sooo… go vegan
    stop making this world so fuking dangerous.

  8. Kobe Bryant Murdered

    And for the eclipse ritual aspect

  9. Stop feeding sick and dead animals to our animals. Dead pets from vet clinics. Dead sick cattle allowed to be processed if they cut out the tumors approved by FDA. In your food supply.. Mad cow disease producing more dementia in humans. . Symptoms same as Alzheimer's. They have cheap tests to identify it in animals but FDA refuses to sell Farmers test kits. Wake up America. This is just the start. Raise healthy animals in fresh air on healthy land in numbers they will thrive. They are all social beings. They are not plants. You do not need to eat meat to be healthy and survive.
    But 9orporations want total control. New regulations intended to force smaller farms out of business. Especially organic farmers. Bills pending now. Speak up silent America.

  10. And companies like Monsanto are killing farmers in third world countries for doing this ancestral practices with plants and animals.
    Perhaps Europe and the United States should stop their imperialist companies and let us teach you how is done in a healthy way .

  11. Sadly in poorer countries there is no awareness of this. Farmers can't bear the cost and government is not interested in making and enforcing regulations.

  12. Who wants to clean animal waste every day even if paid handsomely to do it? Do you know how much more water will this exercise take as a whole? Already these animals, especially the big ones like cows are consuming so much water just too sustain them. And there are so many countries facing life threatening waste scarcity issues right now. We have problem feeding food adequately to humans in the world in entirety and here you go suggesting feeding a more balanced diet to the animals, meaning eventually depriving more humans of food. What you are suggesting is a very unsustainable and costly way to solve the problem of trying to reduce the use of antibiotics on animals. The solution is right there staring at your face. Cut the middlemen out, cut the antibiotics then, naturally. Not a very bright person you seem to be, although with your scholastic attainments and standing…

  13. 1970: If we don't do anything humans will go extinct
    Humans: Oh sheet! Let's change our ways!

    2020: If we don't do anything humans will go extinct
    Humans: Shut up, Greta! Go back to school!

  14. But profits for big corporations is the only important thing. I'm a business friendly conservative. Thankfully, all lawmakers with both parties are onboard with this idea as well

  15. As a farmer, this Ted talk is not very factual…..
    We don't give our animals micro doses of anti biotics, there's a strict rules and regulations around what we can use, and how it can be used. We also have to be prescribed that anti biotic from a vet. If a sick animal is given an anti biotic, we then have to go through a withhold period before any of that animals produce can enter the human food chain.
    It's no different than if you get sick or have an infection and get prescribed antibiotics from your doctor….
    This guy is grouping all farmers into one group. Not everyone feed there animals a diet like what your claiming they do…
    I generally enjoy these Ted talks, but this one is a load of crap.
    If your worried about antibiotic resistance, it's not animals you need to be worried about,
    It's antibiotic resistance in humans that's the problem… your using the animals as a scapegoat.

  16. How about leaving the animal and animal products off of our plates, as they are responsible for close to 70% of all of our zoonotic infectious diseases. We have one spreading now called the coronavirus which was contracted by one of the wild game they were selling at one of the China markets. The SARS virus infected us the same way. HIV AIDS has been contracted by monkeys which we killed. When is mankind gonna wake up that we are not designed to eat meat, and that it is very dangerous for us to do so. Real omnivores and carnivores don't need to worry about these infectious diseases as they have protections in place to counter these things as they are designed to eat infected animals as they are the easiest to catch. Just take dogs for instance, they have antimicrobial saliva, and real omnivores and carnivores make 14 to 20 times the amount of acid that we do which will kil the rest of the infections. We are also the only omnivore that can choke on meat, no other omnivore can do that. Wake up humans as eating animals and animal products is killing our planet too, it is the number one driver for deforestation, ocean dead zones, species extinction, greenhouse gas emissions, and is responsible for our number two killer which is heart disease, again no real omnivore or carnivores can develop plaques in their arteries from eating meat and animals products. We don't have much time, we need to connect the dots and fast.

  17. There are no happy animals in a farm, this is ridiculous. We don't need to eat animals nor milk, eggs … So ,any body can teach Leon Marchal the more efficient way to stop using antibiotics on animals?

  18. I think it’s dangerous to leave foods (animals and vegetables) to global market mechanism. Global market mechanism seeks short term profits. As a result, farm owners seek to maximize efficiency at the sacrifice of health of consumer and cattle and vegetables and networks of microorganisms in soil, water, our intestines.
    By the way, according to a report (I forget the source), farm-raised salmon is even more contaminated by strong antibiotics and other toxic chemicals than cattle.

  19. …the urgent case for idiot free humans…
    …they want to control everything but can not even stop their own thoughflow for 30 seconds ar will…
    …if anything is supremely pathetic, that must be it.


  21. A friend and I removed chicken and beef from our cats' diets over 20 years ago. Sadly, the brands we used back then either no longer exist, or have put poor quality ingredients and fillers into their foods to keep costs down. My friend now feeds her cats a raw meat diet and they're doing wonderfully. I've wanted to do the same with my cats, but the few options I have in my area are either mostly chicken or beef. 😿

  22. The situation is problably a tad more complex then this accesseble talk made it seem. It is important to keep a leveled head and not get zealous or carried away by some cause or belief. That said I do agree that farmers should use less antibiotics to cull this problem, the exess consumation of the substance is so wasteful and inresponsible. I can only hope that other parts of the world like the EU take initiative to change this for the better.

  23. I am not saying it will happen but IF the practice of feeding cattle continious and regular ammounts of antibiotics somehow gets regulated worldvide. It might sort itself out. Im thinking that due to poor treatment of the animals a lot of funds will go to treating the animals afflicted by some sort of ailment. In long term this will cause better competitiors (both ethicly and efficently) to surpass this company and make them go bankrupt.
    However this raises the question of how long will this take and how much can the relevant community endure before more severe consequenses begin to occur.

  24. Cant wait for 2020 Donald Trump To debate Antibiotics like he does climate change. I wonder who created the idea of Antibiotic resistance? A hoax by CHINA AS WELL PERHAPS>1.1>!>>>!!>>!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  25. W/O antibiotics my uncles ranch would have to lower the density of animals per acre and prices would easily double or more. While most Americans can absorb that cost increase, it would negatively affect lower income Americans. I’m not saying he’s wrong, I’m just reminding everyone think of all the income classes when influencing policy.

  26. Colloidal silver! Kills the bad you keep good. Kills 650 pathogens. Viral, bacterial, fungus, yeast. Make your own. Your going need it. Black seed oil, cure s everything except death. Clean blood with burdock root. Much love and God Bless

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