Livestock animals have been selected for growing rapidly, but this will be at the expense of natural immunity against diseases, Dutch researchers say.
Ecophysiologists from Groningen University, the Netherlands, have published an article in the scientific journal Functional Ecology that without knowing it, the animal husbandry industry has contributed to animal disease outbreaks and the demand to antibiotics.
Researcher Prof Simon Verhulst said, “In the intensive livestock industry, diseases form a big problem, just like the need to often treat the animals with antibiotics."
He continued, “The massive use of antibiotics will create resistant antibiotics, which makes it severely more difficult to treat people, who suffer from the same pathogens."
The researchers made a survey of measuring the immune system among poultry that had been selected for growth for several generations. Virtually without any exception, it was shown that the selection for rapid growth went at the expense of the immune system's efficacy.
It is thought that an adjusted breeding programme it is possible to increase the animals' immunity. Experimental selection for a more active immune system did not go at the expense of animal growth.
The research was also carried out by Peter J. van der Most, Berber de Jong and Henk K. Parmentier. A summary of the study can be read here.
• Groningen University
• Functional Ecology
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