Livestock, Antibiotics & You

Adrianne Doll

United States livestock, mainly those animals raised for meat, are fed 28.8 million pounds of antibiotics each year.  This translates to 80% of all antibiotics in the country, including those for human use.  The consequence of consistently feeding antibiotics to livestock is antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Humans come in contact with these bacteria through eating food from industrial livestock facilities, living in environments contaminated with waste from such facilities, or by direct contact with animals that are over medicated.  Illnesses, in humans, caused by these bacteria do not react to antibiotics as they are supposed to, and instead become “super bugs” that require much stronger and heavier dosages of antibiotics.  Some infections have been found to not even react to these stronger antibiotics, for example staphylococcus.     

The European Union long ago realized the dangers of regularly feeding antibiotics to healthy animals and banned the practice.  Therefore the EU does not import any meat from the United States.  Countries, like Canada, Japan and Australia, have also followed suit.  So why isn’t American listening?

The reason is the factory farming industry believes that halting the practice would severely cut their profits.  Studies from 1946 showed that systematic feeding of antibiotics caused livestock to grow faster and put on weight more efficiently, thereby increasing profits.  In actuality, the antibiotics are used to counteract the infections caused by primarily feeding corn, which has no nutritional value and toxifies most livestock digestion processes, but is very cheap, as well as successful for quick weight gain.  Bottom line is that large-scale livestock farming organizations only care about profits: Not your health or the animals’ health.

8 Responses

  1. The kind thing to do is not to eat animals that are raised in such horrific conditions
    and if someone can’t do without flesh foods to
    then buy organic and free range products. If they don’t care they deserve what they get.

  2. “Free range” is a marketing ploy with no required standards behind the label. “Organic” does’t even pretend to be about treatment. Please do some research before believing the hype. is a good place to start.
    The just thing to do is not to raise sentient beings as commodities anyway.

  3. This is the problem that has contributed to the MRSA infection. Additionally these farm animals that are considered nothing more than a commodity spent their lives in horrible environments. Until people stop buying meat, the industry will continue the abuse. Also most consumers do not know that they are buying antibiotic-laden meat and labeling is something that the meat industry does not want. Education concerning factory-farming is the only way for people to know what they are eating.

  4. The unmistakable subtext of this piece seems to be that animals have only an extrinsic value. The main concern is human health. We do have a self-regarding way of referring everyhting back to our own narrow interests.

    I don’t know what Canada’s policy is on anitbiotics and I don’t care. Our treatment of ‘food animals’ is just as vile here as in the US.

    As for the EU, they’ve recently announced gleaming new guidlines calling for the end of battery cages. A watershed, we’re told. A historic reform, supporters proclaim. The reality is more sombre. Compliance is voluntary, and several countries have opted out. France, Italy and others have flatly declared that they love their battery cages far too much to consider abandoning them.The UK will follow the new rules and replace battery cages which allot 550cm sq to each hen with cages offering them 750 cm sq. So instead of only being able to take 1/2 a step, hens in the enhanced cages will now be afforded the chance to take a whole step before they’re butchered. They’ll also get some rudimentary environmental enrichment. So much for the widely held superstition that Europe is so much more enlightened than North America.

    Antibiotics are not the problem. Eliminate them and you may remove a growing danger to the human populations who devour animals, but you’ve done precisely nothing for the animals themselves.

  5. Yet another reason to hunt for your own meat.

  6. Yet another reason to eschew meat altogether.

    Given that a large majority of people live in urban areas with absolutely no access (or desire) to areas in which to kill prey… Even so – With the wide range of parasitic, bacterial, fungal and viral diseases such as: Toxoplasmosis, Brucellosis, chronic wasting disease, Trichinosis – (along with the standard salmonellosis, e-coli, etc. found in “production meat), the risks to human health are high. Not to mention that the animal could have been previously injured with lead shot, thus increasing the eating of the meat even further… And oh yeah… Tic infestations are another issue.

    All that aside -The crux of it is that no one in this civilized -here and now- “needs” to kill anyone in order to be quite healthy and gastronomically satisfied!

    That said, the initial post stated the hazards of antibiotic use in “food animals”… It’s interesting to note, via the “pork people” (of all unlikely sources), that the FDA just moved to keep ignoring the 1977 recommendations to reduce/discontinue drugs in “livestock”.

    What a cowardly move towards protecting the citizens that pay for “safe food” with their taxes. This disregard – illustrates completely the total breakdown in the food system.

    Thankfully, we live in circumstances with better, and more just alternatives.

  7. Provoked,
    Plenty of food-borne pathogens on vegetable matter too.

    I’m fortunate enough to live in an area where hunting is accessible and economically viable. I realize not everybody is that lucky.

    And if large metropolitan areas are “civilized,” well, I’d rather not be.

    All that said, we’re reaching such a critical level of mass production of everything, something’s got to break sooner or later. Change is inevitable.

  8. Adrianne,

    As my father adamantly warns my siblings and I … Do not let immediate gratification become our downfall. How true this adage is in the context of factory farming…..

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