The Food and Drug Administration is trying, once again, to ban the indiscriminate use of antibiotics at factory farms.
Antibiotics are routinely pumped into cows, pigs, chickens and other animals, not to cure them of infections, but simply to make them grow faster and to stop them having reactions to the unnatural diet they’re fed – also to make them grow faster and fatter.
The F.D.A. is not so much concerned about the animals; it’s concerned about us humans. That’s because the penicillin and tetracycline that are pumped into the animals end up on our plates. The beef and pork and chicken that people eat are laced with these chemicals. So humans are being dosed with antibiotics every day … and are becoming resistant to them.
The end result is a dangerous, deadly growth in out-of-control bacteria.
About 100,000 people die every year from infections picked up in hospitals and caused by bacteria that, because of the overuse of antibiotics, have developed resistance and cannot be destroyed. Many more (it’s not known exactly how many, but scientists say the number is substantial) die from superbugs contracted outside hospitals.
The latest move by the F.D.A. comes in the form of a policy document stating that agricultural uses of antibiotics should be limited to assuring animal health, and that veterinarians should be involved in the drugs’ uses.
It’s unlikely that much progress will be made
The F.D.A. has been trying to cut down on the use of antibiotics at factory farms for decades. And Congress, which is awash in campaign contributions and other bribes from factory farm lobbyists, has routinely blocked any such moves. (So much for health care!)
It’s not just antibiotics. To fatten them up even faster, the animals are dosed up with growth hormones, too.
In 2001, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that fully 84 percent of all antibiotics were used in agriculture and that 70 percent were used simply to promote animal growth, not to treat or prevent illness.
One of the problems in trying to ban the use of antibiotics at factory farms is how to frame the rules. If the F.D.A. says they should no longer be used to speed up growth of the animals, the factory businesses can simply say that they’re using them for health purposes.
It’s certainly true that factory farm animals tend to be sicker. They eat a completely unnatural diet, including even the ground-up dead bodies of animals who have died at these factories. It’s all geared toward fattening them up for slaughter as quickly and as cheaply as possible. The antibiotics speed up their growth and also prevent some of the bacterial infections that are a natural reaction to the bad food they eat.
What can you do?
It’s really simple: Don’t eat these animals. Don’t feed factory-farm beef, chicken or pork to anyone you care about.
If you can’t yet completely stop eating meat, buy it from organic farms where the animals lead a more natural life – grazing on pasture rather than being fed corn laced with hormones, antibiotics and each other.
For more information about factory farming and how you can bring it to an end, visit the Farm Sanctuary. They care for animals rescued from factory farms, and work to make life better for those who can’t be rescued.