Brexit, British Farming and Gut Health
Brexit is an opportunity for British farming to become "the envy of the world,' farmers and environmentalists have told the Prime Minister. For food standards to become enshrined in law: "Brexit can be a catalyst for UK farming...to provide gold-standard model for high standard, high quality, sustainable food production."
A quality assurance that comes with an emphasis on sustainable methods of farming. And by definition, a quality assurance that comes with a greater level of transparency. To better inform consumers about the food they eat.
But how does this relate to gut health and to worming? It's unpacking the field to fork analogy. Understanding the many stages and links in the chain from field to fork, or from field to milk bottle or from field to egg box. Looking at the journey it took to get from a to b and what this involved.
Other than the vegetables and pulses and grains that might go into your shopping basket on a weekly basis, there might also be meat, milk and eggs. If they didn't come from the fields outside your front door, or from the nearby farm, they might have come neatly packaged with a sell-by-date and some form of quality assurance, but little information about the chemicals or 'care' that went into them before they came to market.
Why are we ignoring gut worm resistance?
It's a subject that Dr Nick Thompson MRCVS explores in depth in his video: Why are we ignoring gut worm resistance? It's a growing concern, he explains: "put simply, all human and animal de-wormers face rapidly developing resistance," and this has huge implications on human health, animal welfare and economics.
Dr Ray Kaplan of the University of Georgia, USA, one of the vets leading the fight against anthelmintic resistance is of the same mind: "In the majority of the most important parasite species of sheep, goats, cattle and horses, multiple drug resistance is the new status quo."
But what does anthelmintic resistance mean to us?
How does it directly impact on our lives? Thompson explains: "If resistance forces us to use more anthelmintics, it is inevitable that there will be more contamination of meat, milk and eggs taken from these animals. More food contamination. More potential toxicity to animals and to humans which means more anthelmintic residues in meat, milk and eggs which can promote resistance to human worms exposed to sub lethal doses of wormer from food products."
Driving worm resistance
Low doses of drug are a major link in driving worm resistance. Withdrawal periods are delays after dosing animals before meat, milk and eggs can be taken for human consumption. A clearing period to allow the drug to leave the animal's body. They are designed to minimise animal driven contamination of meat, milk and eggs, but as Thompson points out, they are not so stringent as to eliminate risk completely. They just reduce to an agreed level.
Anthelmintic resistance also has an impact on economics. Meat will become more expensive. Milk will become more expensive. Eggs will become more expensive. How? Worms will create reduced food conversion ratios. Reduced efficiency of the animal to produce those foods within them. A cycle of dependency, Thompson explains, where resistance creates more disease, increases vet bills as animals are more sick, and forces us to use more wormers.
Dr Ray Kaplan makes the case for a restricted use of anthelmintics. For these to be prescribes by vets, much like antibiotics are prescribed by doctors. His is an impassioned plea for improved testing of anthelmintics for efficacy and resistance. You can't tell if you're winning or losing the battle of 'global worming,' he reasons, unless you can measure your progress.
Thompson urges us to think beyond just using anthelmintic drugs. To employ other, more complex and sustainable recipes including; nutrition, pasture management and herbal or botanical wormers.
Food Labelling & gut health
He goes further by suggesting animal foods to be labelled with the drugs used in their production. Just as the declaration of e-number and calories has caused a change in buying patterns, so a declaration of drugs in foods would reduce the use of those drugs on the farm. "We must act how," he cautions "to delay the inevitable tide of anthelmintic resistance inching ever closer each day."
Animal welfare and food standards
The National Farmers Union, Greenpeace and the RSPB, along with 60 other organisations have led calls for the government to include its manifesto commitment to maintain animal welfare and food standards during trade talks in the forthcoming Agriculture Bill and pioneer:
"a new type of global trading system; one that moves away from the narrow and dated focus on ever cheaper goods, regardless of how they are produced, to one that rises to the challenges of climate change and promotes more sustainable models of production and consumption across the world."
Gut health surely is at the heart of it. Making informed choices about what we put in our animals. Choices that can benefit their health, our health and also the health of the environment.
Interested to learn more?
Why we need to rethink our approach to fleas, ticks and worms - read the article.
Taking care of animal health, naturally. Browse the range.