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New Bill Introduced to Limit Antibiotic Use in Livestock

I’ve posted a few times about the problem with widespread antibiotic use by people, but also by livestock producers. In fact, livestock is estimated to be getting 70% of the antibiotics given out in the U.S. The concern you hear about most commonly in the media is that this contributes to antibiotic resistant superbugs like MRSA. The problems you hear less about are those caused by the antibiotics getting into the environment and food supply and the health issues this can cause for the human population as well as for wildlife, and possibly even for plants. Even plants are taking in antibiotics through the water supply or through treated sewage spread on crops as fertilizer. The problem with antibiotics in food or in water for people, never mind for plants and wild or domesticated animals, is that it upsets the natural ecological balance inside the body so that all sorts of bacteria, including good bacteria, are destroyed. Some of these bacteria keep other types of organisms under control, for example certain types of fungus. There are also possible, probable effects caused by the interaction of antibiotics with other pharmaceuticals and chemicals we’re taking in. Contemporary people are getting a much wider array of “inputs” than you would have seen even a hundred years ago. The least the government can do is stop factory farmers from giving antibiotics to animals before they are actually needed to treat disease. Currently the drugs are given mainly to prevent disease in the unsanitary, crowded conditions of many of these “farms,” and also to promote growth.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York is introducing a new bill to do just that, and it’s apparently the fourth time the bill has been introduced, on an issue that’s been on the radar since at least 1980 according to Slaughter. But of course, factory farmers are trying to stop the bill from passing. Don’t be fooled by the headline, food safety is already at risk because of factory farm operations, with the vast amount of manure and their runoff getting into water supplies and contaminating produce, never mind the health of the animals where most of our meat is actually coming from. What is true is that more animals dying because of declining antibiotic use would drive the cost of food up, assuming more animals will in fact die because of this law, and not that they would build up their own resistance to disease and perhaps be healthier overall, considering the effect overuse of antibiotics has in people might be similar for animals. It would possibly force these farms to give these animals more space and cleaner living conditions so that they don’t get sick so frequently. There may end up being fewer animals produced overall and the cost of meat would probably go up. But, if you’re a green or health-conscious person, you probably already know that we’re eating too much meat and not enough plants anyhow, for our health and for the environment (particularly for reducing climate change). If you’re in the United States and you’d like to see this bill pass on only its fourth attempt, now’s the time to start being vocal about it.

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