Animal welfare group Humane Society International has urged the Union government to ban the non-therapeutic or unnecessary use of antibiotics on farm animals.

The group, in a statement issued here, pointed out that there were no regulatory provisions in the country on use of antibiotics on farm animals,

The National Policy for Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance, released last month, had expressed concern at the use of antibiotics as growth promoters on farm animals, especially poultry. It called for an inter-sectoral coordination committee, composed of members from a wide variety of disciplines and government agencies, to develop regulations for use of antimicrobials on animals and to create labelling requirements for edible meat.

“We hope that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recognises the importance of these recommendations and imposes a ban on the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics on farm animals,” N.G. Jayasimha of Humane Society International's campaign in India said. “It is imperative that this committee takes action to address the routine and dangerous use of antibiotics on India's factory farms.”

The statement said the unnatural crowding of animals and their waste in factory farms put a strain on the immune systems of animals, leading to normal processes such as growth being impaired.

A constant influx of antibiotics was thought to accelerate weight gain by reducing this infection load.

This indiscriminate antibiotic use might select for drug-resistant pathogens that could affect both human and non-human animals. As the bacteria turned more resistant to the antibiotics fed to chickens and other animals raised for meat, they might become more resistant to the antibiotics needed to treat sick people.

Antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria could be found in the air, the groundwater and the soil around farms and on retail meat, and people could be exposed to these pathogens through infected meat, vegetables fertilised with raw manure, and water supplies contaminated with farm animals waste.