A superb Nicholas Kristof column condemning agribusiness’ antibiotic use:
…while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives. We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but its lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer.
Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of our agricultural system — I say this as an Oregon farmboy who once raised sheep, cattle and hogs — is the way antibiotics are recklessly stuffed into healthy animals to make them grow faster.
Kristof then provides some context showing how out of control this antibiotic use has grown:
The single state of North Carolina uses more antibiotics for livestock than the entire United States uses for humans.
We would never think of trying to keep our children healthy by adding antibiotics to school water fountains, because we know this would breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It’s unconscionable that Big Ag does something similar for livestock.
I’ve seen this argument made a hundred times, but I’ve never seen it put so well.
In Meat Market, I wrote extensively about dismantling animal agribusiness by identifying important yet vulnerable industry assets and stripping them away. There’s no doubt that agribusiness’ ability to boost profits by misusing antibiotics is a key industry asset that an informed public would never accept.
It seems that the moment has finally arrived in which this asset has become vulnerable. Articles like Kristof’s just weren’t being published five or even two years ago. Animal advocates ought to be promoting Kristof’s column, and uniting with public health advocates in calling for a ban on antibiotic use by industry.
A couple key allies in this fight: Farm Forward and The Union of Concerned Scientists. They’re both supporting PAMTA (the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.) We should, too. And here’s a good place to start. Link.