Expert report condemns continued antibiotic use in US livestock

U.S. regulators and livestock producers have failed to curb the use of antibiotics in cattle, pigs and poultry despite concerns that excessive use in meat production will reduce the drugs’ effectiveness in humans, a panel of experts said.

“Meaningful change is unlikely in the future,” concluded the 14-member panel, assembled by Johns Hopkins University, in a report released on Tuesday that quickly drew protests from livestock industry groups.

The release marked the fifth anniversary of a landmark 2008 Pew Charitable Trust report that called for an end to the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics by livestock producers, as well as an end to practices such as tiny cages for laying hens…

The Johns Hopkins’ report said “additional scientific evidence has strengthened the case that these (non-therapeutic) uses pose unnecessary and unreasonable public health risks” of allowing bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics.

“We have even better science to support the recommendations we have made,” said Mary Wilson, an epidemiologist at Harvard University. “We are, in fact, running out of antibiotics. We are seeing infections that are untreatable.”

More than 2 million Americans are sickened by antibiotic-resistant infections each year and 23,000 of them die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control And Prevention.

Livestock industry leaders said “Blah, blah, blah”

giant chicken

Antibiotics are routinely sprinkled into U.S. cattle, hog and poultry feed to promote growth and are also used to prevent and treat illness. Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of antibiotic sales

Robert Lawrence, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, which produced the report, blamed “the political power of industrial agriculture” for lack of action on antibiotics and other reforms.

Legislation to expand the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s power over antibiotics use in livestock has stalled repeatedly in Congress…

Former Kansas Governor John Carlin, who chaired the review for Johns Hopkins, said growing public interest in food production eventually will outweigh today’s anti-government mood, and “I would say to my friends in production agriculture the next few years would be a good time to cut some deals.”

James Merchant, the former dean of public health at the University of Iowa, said research on antibiotic resistance was “getting much stronger and more specific.” As well, he said, the incidence of antibiotic resistance declined in countries, such as Denmark, that restrict antibiotic use in livestock.

Like so many protocols combining corporate arrogance and political subservience, reform is overdue.

The whole process of fattening cattle on feed lots is founded on unhealthy practices from stuffing animals with starchy feed and antibiotics to bulk them up – to keeping them stacked check-by-jowl in enclosures which prevent any expenditure of calories by, say, walking around.

The stench and uncleanliness of feed lots is only exceeded by the collaboration of cattle processors, pharmaceutical manufacturers and politicians – state, local and Congressional.

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