Antibiotics are (over) used in animal agriculture in some very concerning ways. And it’s been going on far too long…and putting us all at risk.
Over 70 years ago, American farmers started giving small doses of antibiotics to help accelerate the rate at which animals raised for food put on muscle mass. This practice never stopped and became the standard.
From early on, a pretty aggressive precedent was set for the industry to either grow larger animals for slaughter or grow animals to the standard size with less feed in the same amount of time. The race for BIG and FAST for LESS was born.
Then, it got worse as antibiotics were used as a preventative for disease, especially in confined feeding operations where animals are brought in from around the country and kept in close quarters, exposing each other to loads of diseases.
Because they preventatively give a sub-therapeutic dose of antibiotics, keeping animals just well enough, this carelessness creates a massive risk of developing antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics become less or not effective at killing off the bacteria they target. It’s a recipe for disaster.
By 2020, 13 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for use in agriculture use, statistically, none of it was being given to treat sick animals. Almost all of it was being sold to animal agriculture for growth promotion and disease prevention.
And it wasn’t unique to one species: 41 percent of these antibiotics went to cattle and 42 percent went to pigs. Two-thirds of all antibiotics sold in the US are being sold for animal ag use.
Friend, the problem doesn’t even end there, unfortunately. Antibiotics are also sprayed onto animal waste, which is often used as fertilizer for many fruits and vegetables we buy at the store.
Antibiotic misuse is not an issue that just results in BIG and FAST GROWING farmed animals. It also has serious human health implications, like the proliferation of salmonella, which is now much harder to treat.
In 2017, the government released a few guidelines (not laws) that made the FDA label antibiotics for animal use as “not to be used for growth promotion,” which initially created a decline in the use of antibiotics for animals. But now the numbers are trending back up.
We hope that some of the changes to regulations in the European Union to cut back on antibiotic use in animals will soon be spreading to the US. Our food system needs a major overhaul. Right? It’s horrible for the animals trapped in it, and it’s a public health disaster waiting to happen.
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