Investigation into chicken farms in Italy

Intensive Animal Farming Fuels Deadly Risk of Antimicrobial Resistance

FOUR PAWS calls for collective action to tackle massive global health threat


Vienna, 23 November 2023 - Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest threats to human health, causing 1.27 million deaths globally each year. Shockingly, a substantial 70% of antibiotics globally are used for animals in intensive farming practices, accelerating the development and spread of AMR to humans. This alarming statistic underscores the urgency of prioritising efforts to reduce antibiotic use in farming. Without intervention, a staggering rise to ten million deaths yearly may occur by 2050. In light of AMR awareness week (18-24 November), global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS urges decision- and policymakers worldwide to improve animal welfare, reducing the number of animals farmed and transitioning to sustainable, diverse food systems to protect animals, humans and the environment.

AMR occurs when pathogens, such as bacteria and fungi, no longer respond to existing medicines, making infections difficult or impossible to treat. While AMR is a natural process, the overuse of antimicrobials accelerates this threat, and intensive farming systems are a hotspot for antimicrobial overuse. From a policy perspective, it is critical to broaden the focus: from merely restricting the use of antibiotics to sick animals only, to preventing animals from becoming sick in the first place. FOUR PAWS emphasises the importance of preventing infectious diseases on farms through higher animal welfare to reduce the reliance on antibiotic treatments.

“The link between antimicrobial resistance and intensive farming highlights the urgent need for cross-sectoral action in line with the One Health approach, which seeks to sustainably optimise and balance the health of people, animals and ecosystems. Extensive farms with high animal welfare are using far fewer antibiotics compared to intensive farms, where animals live in intolerable conditions.” 

Wendla-Antonia Beyer, Farm Animals & Nutrition Campaigns Coordinator at FOUR PAWS

Currently, a substantial portion of antibiotics in intensive farms is dedicated to treating preventable infectious diseases - infections that could be prevented through better husbandry, improved farm management, and overall higher animal welfare. Cruel conditions in intensive farms and the prevalence of infections are interconnected: animals in intensive farms live in conditions that lead to suppressed immunity and heightened risks of injuries, leading to a cycle of infections that necessitate antimicrobial treatments.

“In essence, our farming systems rely on the routine use of antibiotics to keep animals alive in cruel conditions and to keep the production systems economically viable. This must change,” says Beyer. “Promoting high animal welfare reduces infection incidence and the need for antibiotics, which is crucial in protecting human health from AMR. We know how to limit antimicrobial resistance; now we need world leaders to act: The WHO Pandemic Agreement, currently in negotiation, needs to acknowledge the link between our food systems and AMR as a 'silent pandemic' and lay the foundations for systemic changes in the farming sector to address the underlying causes of high antimicrobial use.”

 Broiler chicken farm investigation in December 2020 in east England

Reducing Antibiotic Use by Improving Animal Welfare

FOUR PAWS guidance report

Read more
Katharina Braun

Katharina Braun

Team Lead Public Relations

+43 (0) 664 885 33 270

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

FOUR PAWS on Social Media

Stay up to date on this topic and on all FOUR PAWS activities on our social media channels:

or subscribe to FOUR PAWS International newsletter.


FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

Share now!