Antibiotics in animal husbandry

Titelbild Antibiotika - Tiere Menschen Rechte

Antibiotics are indispensable for human and animal health. However, their effectiveness is increasingly at stake - already today, the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant pathogens is considered one of the greatest global health threats. At Germanwatch, we primarily keep an eye on the use of antibiotics in industrial livestock production and politically advocate stricter regulations as well as breeding and husbandry methods that are significantly healthier for the animals.

What is the fundamental problem?
Antibiotics in industrial animal husbandry
Antibiotic resistance as a threat to humans

Antibiotika - Kernziele und Unterstützung

Our core objectives and activities

In principle, the prudent use of antibiotics must be constantly promoted and monitored. Incorrect or abusive use of antibiotics must be counteracted and prevented. With regard to industrial livestock production, we focus on the following objectives:

  1. Antibiotics classified by the WHO as " highest priority critically important antimicrobials" (HP CIA) must be excluded from use in industrial livestock production.
  1. Reduction of the general use of antibiotics in livestock production, in particular through significantly improved approaches and measures in the area of animal breeding and husbandry. Existing husbandry systems must be redesigned, especially with regard to animal health. This will also include on-farm as well as general livestock reduction.
  1. Effective implementation of the EU Regulation 2019/6 on veterinary medicinal products and national antibiotic resistance strategies, especially with regard to antibiotics of last resort, including sufficient and transparent monitoring and controlling systems.
  1. Strict and effective implementation of at least the target of the Farm to Fork Strategy to reduce European antibiotic use in animal husbandry by 50 % by 2030.


To achieve these goals, we at Germanwatch focus on the following activities:

  • We prepare information in the form of articles, lectures, (press) releases and background papers.
  • We raise public awareness on the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) from animal husbandry.
  • We monitor political processes around the topic, identify and work on important leverage points to minimise the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry and to preserve the efficacy of the most important antibiotics for humans.
  • We are building an action-oriented Europe-wide network on the topic, promoting interdisciplinary exchange and cooperation between organisations from a wide range of fields, including human medicine, veterinary medicine, environmental protection and development cooperation.
  • We examine legal options to promote protection against antibiotic resistance and uncover health risks from industrial animal husbandry through research and laboratory testing.

What can you do?

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Together we can bring about a change in the use of antibiotics and, not least, initiate major changes in animal breeding and husbandry.


Latest (press) releases and publications

An appeal from human and veterinary medicine on the occasion of EUROPEAN ANTIBIOTIC AWARENESS DAY 2021
Modern medicine is unthinkable without antibiotics. Their availability for the treatment of bacterial infectious diseases saves countless lives worldwide every day. Due to the increasing emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), we are currently in danger of losing effective antibiotics - nothing less than global health is at stake. The high and regular use of antibiotics in animal husbandry, which fosters antimicrobial resistance, is therefore no longer acceptable.

A so-called delegated act is currently being discussed at EU level, which is to provide criteria for the designation of antimicrobials that are reserved solely for humans and can then no longer be used in animal husbandry. On 15 September, the EU Parliament will decide on an objection to this delegated act. In essence, the objection provides for the delegated act to be revised again so that antimicrobials that are most important for humans ("critically important antimicrobials with the highest priority", WHO) can also be included in order to preserve their effectiveness.

Press Release
Poultry company PHW most heavily contaminated with almost 60 per cent of contaminated meat samples / Study commissioned by Germanwatch and human medicine specialists tests 165 chicken meat samples from the three largest groups in the EU, purchased among others from Lidl and Aldi in Germany, France, Poland, the Netherlands, and Spain.
More than every second chicken meat sample (51 per cent) from the three largest poultry companies in Europe is contaminated with resistance to one or even several antibiotics at the same time. On average, more than every third chicken (35 per cent) even carries antibiotic-resistant pathogens with resistance to critically important antimicrobials highest priority into the food chain. These are the alarming results of a study published October 27. The study tested 165 chicken meat samples from the three companies, purchased in Germany, France, Poland, the Netherlands, and Spain.
Ranking of EU chicken meat companies according to contamination by antibiotic-resistant pathogens

Germanwatch discloses: Chicken meat from the PHW-Group, Germany's largest poultry company, is almost 60 percent contaminated with antibiotic-resistant pathogens. This is the result of a Germanwatch study in which chicken meat samples from the three largest EU producers were tested in the laboratory. Every third sample even showed resistance to reserve antibiotics. These are emergency antibiotics that people need when other antibiotics no longer help. The more resistant pathogens are introduced into the food chain and into our kitchens with chicken meat, the greater the health risk that these last-line antibiotics will lose their effectiveness.


Antibiotics in intensive animal husbandry - after years of efforts by the German government, this should no longer be a cause for concern. But unfortunately it is, as a study by Germanwatch shows: More than every second chicken in discounters is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Every third chicken meat sample was contaminated with germs that have resistance to antibiotics with highest priority for humans.

Antibiotic Appeal 2021

Antibiotics Appeal

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Antibiotika in der Tierhaltung - Zusatz-Infos

Germanwatch e.V.
Bank für Sozialwirtschaft AG
IBAN: DE95 3702 0500 0003 2123 23

Bildnachweise: Titel links „Putenstall“ von Uschi Dreiucker/Pixelio; Titel Mitte „Antibiotika-Kuh“ von Peter Hermes Furian/Fotolia; Titel rechts  „Intensivstation“ von Satyrenko/Fotolia; sonstige Bilder von Germanwatch e.V.