By Fredrica Syren:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally is taking steps towards stopping the use of antibiotics in animals used for meat.
Antibiotics have been given to livestock since 1946 because studies showed that antibiotics make animals grow faster and put on weight more efficiently. It’s also used to prevent illnesses and to compensate for the unsanitary conditions in which they are raised. Since the meat industry is all about profits, giving the animals a low dose antibiotic became a standard treatment for both livestock and farmed fish.
Of course the farm industry argues that they have to give antibiotics to the animals to keep them healthy and to keep up with the demand for cheap meat. The fact is that animals would not get sick as often if farms cleaned up their farm practices by improving sanitary conditions in the animals’ living spaces and feed lots with more frequent cleaning, by providing a healthier and natural diet, and by giving animals more space.
The FDA is now asking farms to stop using drugs for “growth promotion” or “feed efficiency.” They are also making it illegal to use any drug that is also used in human medicine to be used on animals. Other countries already have banned the use of penicillin and other human antibiotics by the farm industry. In the EU, for example, a ban has been in effect since 1999.
Antibiotics are great and very important drugs that have saved millions of lives. However, according to a new report by the FDA, today approximately 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to farm animals. That means only 20% of the antibiotics are used to treat humans. Yet, by eating factory farmed meat or fish, we end up consuming more antibiotics than necessary and potentially risking our lives.
The inappropriate use of antibiotics in animals raised for food has contributed to the development of resistant bacteria that affect and can harm humans. And it’s because of this potential human health risk caused by antibiotic resistant bacterial strains that the FDA is finally hearing what advocates have been arguing for years, that the farm industry needs to stop the standard practice of using human drugs.