Animals Have Rights

Antibiotics In Animal Feed Endangers Our Health

One of the greatest health hazards facing the world today is the looming prospect of a world without effective antibiotics. We rely on them to nurse us back to health in a variety of situations where, in pre-antibiotic times, infections formerly endangered and killed millions of people.

The usefulness of antibiotics is now facing a critical challenge. Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, warned in 2011 that "in the absence of urgent corrective and protective actions, the world is heading toward a post-antibiotic era, in which many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, kill unabated..."

How did it come about that this critical medical resource is endangered? It primarily results from the routine use of antibiotics in animal feed. Low doses of antibiotics are routinely put in the feed of healthy animals - not just the sick ones who need medical care - and then people eat those animals and thereby ingest the antibiotics that the animals have consumed. This in turn is rapidly producing antibiotic resistant bacteria. I wonder if those of us who eat meat are aware that right now our bodies are full of antibiotics that we didn't intend to be there?

Given this looming crisis, it is natural to ask why the producers of livestock routinely use antibiotics in feed? The first reason is for growth. The second reason is to combat diseases that would otherwise be rampant in the overcrowded and unhealthy conditions that exist in many factory farms. If you've ever seen battery cages you will never forget the huge buildings holding thousands of cages stacked in rows with hens packed inside of them having barely enough room to turn around. These are ideal conditions for spreading infection and disease.

Instead of the obvious and humane response of providing better living conditions for the animals, agribusiness responds to these conditions by the routine use of antibiotics and thereby endangers human health. There is considerable public concern over this issue. A Consumer Reports Poll in 2012 found the following:

"Eighty-six percent of consumers polled indicated that meat raised without antibiotics should be available in their local supermarket. More than 60 percent of respondents stated that they would be willing to pay at least five cents a pound more for meat raised without antibiotics. More than a third (37%) would pay a dollar or more extra per pound.

The majority of respondents (72%) were extremely or very concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed, including the potential to create "superbugs" that are immune or resistant to antibiotics. More than 60 percent were just as concerned with the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed allowing them to be raised in unsanitary and crowded conditions for livestock, human consumption of antibiotic residue, and environmental effects due to agricultural runoff containing antibiotics."
- Consumer Reports (2012)
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Nobody is trying to limit the use of antibiotics for animals who are sick and need them just as people need them for infections. It is the routine, everyday use of antibiotics that is endangering this precious medical asset that we all rely upon and bills are pending in several jurisdictions to ban their routine use.

What Can You Do?

First, examine your own consumption of meat and make sure that if you buy meat it is certified as free from antibiotics.

Second, support bills at the local, state and federal level which would limit antibiotic use to sick animals. Write or call your legislators and tell them that you support such bills.- Larry

For a deeper analysis of this critical issue, please see the following websites:

Natural Resources Defense Council Humane Society of the United States Cable News Network (CNN) Grace Communications Foundation