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Time For the Livestock Industry to Move in the Right Direction on Antibiotic Use

As the proverb goes, if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Unfortunately, new data released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week shows that the livestock industry continues to move in the wrong direction on antibiotic use—digging all of us into a deeper “hole” when it comes to the public health crisis of antibiotic resistance.

The data shows continued very high levels of antibiotic sales for meat and poultry production, with a steady uptick in overall antibiotics use in the livestock sector over the last decade, culminating in record high sales in 2011. Read more

Ag Gag 2013: A Continued Attempt to Silence Whistleblowers

The Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) has been working in full force since last year in preparation for the anti-whistleblower Ag Gag bills expected (unfortunately) to be introduced in the new legislative session. Bills in Wyoming, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Arkansas and Indiana have all been filed or introduced so far in 2013.

For an overview of the 2012 Ag Gag saga, refer to FIC’s info page.

FIC collaborates with many coalition groups who oppose the legislation, which typically criminalize the individuals who expose wrongdoing rather than the perpetrators of it! Wyoming’s bill – which was introduced mere weeks after undercover video footage revealed inhumane handling of pigs at a Tyson Foods supplier in the state – threatens agriculture whistleblowers with jail time and a fine if they use a recording device on the facility’s premises. Read more

FDA Issues Voluntary Plan to Limit Antibiotics in Agriculture

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking its biggest step yet to rein in the indiscriminate use of antibiotics that help food animals grow bigger, faster. The agency said Wednesday it is asking veterinary drug makers to voluntarily phase out medically important drugs from being available over the counter in the hope that the shift will help combat growing antimicrobial resistance.

Under FDA’s proposal, these antimicrobials will still be allowed in animal agriculture but, if veterinary drug companies agree to change the labels, farmers will be allowed to use the drugs only to prevent, control, or treat diseases and under the supervision of a veterinarian and not for promoting growth or improving feed efficiency.

The agency said it was taking the voluntary action to “preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials for treating disease in humans.” Read more

Senate Bill Addresses Antibiotics in Animal Feed

A bipartisan group of senators re-introduced a bill late last week aimed at preserving the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics by limiting their use in food animal feed. In the face of the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, public health experts and activists have pushed for regulation to limit the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

Recent estimates indicate around 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to food animals.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the primary sponsor of The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, otherwise known as PAMTA, reintroduced the measure to address “the rampant overuse of antibiotics in agriculture that creates drug-resistant bacteria, an increasing threat to human beings.” Read more

Kitchen Table Talks: The Meat of the Matter

Industrial animal agriculture and meat production and consumption have become central issues of our time. Between 1950 and 2007, per capita meat consumption in the U.S. increased an astounding 78 pounds per person per year and world meat consumption is expected to double by 2050. The health consequences from the overconsumption of meat—obesity, coronary heart disease, and cancer—are now well documented.

The 2006 United Nation publication, Livestock’s Long Shadow articulated the environmental impact of industrial animal production—and a new study further estimates that livestock farming on its own—disregarding all other human activity—could negatively tip the balance for climate change and habitat destruction by mid-century.

Between the serious environmental and public health and food safety issues associated with Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)—known for their disregard for animal welfare, misuse of pharmaceuticals, pollution and mismanagement of waste, and concentrated corporate ownership; the importance of alternatives such as sustainable ranching; and the debate as to whether we should eat meat at all, lies an important conversation worth having regarding our role in meat’s global and local impact. Read more

Straight Talk About the Risks of Feeding Antibiotics to Food Animals

It is time for some straight talk about the risks of using massive amounts of antibiotics in livestock and poultry. I don’t know one infectious disease expert who would disagree that there are direct links between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in people. Period. If you don’t believe me just ask Rear Admiral Ali Kahn, Assistant Surgeon General and Acting Deputy Director for the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease. Just this summer, during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dr. Kahn testified that, “there is unequivocal evidence and relationship between [the] use of antibiotics in animals and [the] transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing adverse effects in humans.”

Knowing this, I continue to be frustrated with the fact that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack does not publicly recognize that the industrial food animal production system is a leading contributor to the increase of antibiotic resistance in pathogens that infect people and animals. Earlier this month at a National Cattlemen’s Beef Association meeting, Vilsack responded to a question about the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) by saying the, “USDA’s public position is, and always has been, that antibiotics need to be used judiciously, and we believe they already are.” Read more

Shoddy Science and the “Frankenfish” About to Enter Our Food System Unlabeled

When the FDA announced it found the genetically engineered AquAdvantage salmon safe just before Labor Day, news headlines and even Alaska Senator Mark Begich called it a “frankenfish.” A closer look at AquAdvantage makes it seem unlikely that Mary Shelley could have ever dreamed up anything as wild as the fast growing GE salmon. Even more worrisome is the science used to justify the salmon’s safety, which Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen calls “sloppy,” “misleading,” and “woefully inadequate.”

If approved, AquAdvantage will be the first genetically engineered animal to directly enter the U.S. food supply — a fact that raises the stakes of the FDA’s approval process, as it sets a precedent for all future GE animals. Read more

Attacking the Messenger: Big Ag’s Attempt to Misdirect Attention from Its Own Problems

Reading agribusiness officials’ responses to undercover exposés documenting egregious acts of cruelty to farm animals can be truly mind-boggling. I’ve written about this before, and feel compelled to follow up with a couple more recent sordid examples.

When faced with gruesome images of mistreatment of farm animals, rather than simply condemning the cruelty, some in agribusiness just can’t leave it at that. They feel the need also to attack the compassionate investigators who put themselves at great risk to go undercover and blow the whistle on such abuse.

For example, a new Mercy for Animals investigation involved videotaping workers at one of the nation’s largest pork companies throwing piglets by their ears and legs across the room, cramming pigs into cages barely larger than their own bodies for months on end, and even leaving pigs with untreated prolapses, sores and other health problems.

And what’s the response of the president of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, Dr. Butch Baker? Quite simply: These types of investigations “really are an attack on the rural lifestyle of America.” Read more