Tag Archives: corporate farming

Antibiotics benefit farm animals, but at what cost?

Should we just say “no” to antibiotics for farm animals?

Your veterinarian hands you a bottle of antibiotics after treating your cat’s abscess. “Finish them all,” he urges. If you fail to comply, you’ll be contributing to the development of antibiotic resistance. In which case it won’t be your cat’s health alone that suffers, but potentially yours, too. All this because of a biological process in which bacteria mutate, deftly avoiding the mechanism by which antibiotics would see them exterminated.

Antibiotic resistance is an emerging threat that has accelerated in recent decades. The rise of the so-called “superbug” (think MRSA) has struck fear in the heart of anyone who would overprescribe, misuse or otherwise abuse antimicrobial drugs.

Physicians, veterinarians, patients and their families have all been put on notice: Overuse antibiotics at the public’s peril.

Still, that hasn’t stopped the animal agriculture industry from feeding hogs and chickens and cattle their daily dose of antimicrobial drugs. Aimed at promoting growth and preventing disease, the use of antibiotics in farm animals has been a boon to animal agriculture. Animals grow bigger, faster and healthier. They succumb to fewer diseases. They need less feed. For a farmer, the calculus is simple: Animals cost less when we spike their feed with drugs to prevent diseases.

If you eat most commercially produced meat, you’ve reaped the benefits, too. You spend less on your protein, and your food supply isn’t as likely to contain excesses of harmful bacteria. The public is well served by our modern methods, it would seem.

But at what cost?

That’s what the Obama administration has been pointedly asking over the past year in its quest to ban antibiotics from being used in healthy animals. These animals don’t need the drugs to treat their diseases. Feeding them a daily dose of drugs only accelerates the onset of a health care crisis the vast majority of the medical establishment agrees is looming.

Indeed, this issue has been decades in the making, meandering through public Senate subcommittee hearings and closed-door FDA sessions. Books have been written. Papers peer-reviewed and published. White papers authored. Commissions formed.

Much like climate change’s plodding progress toward more widespread acceptance, the science underlying modern industrial animal agriculture’s antimicrobial utilization methods has been increasingly questioned over the past few decades. Nonetheless, the findings have only recently gained purchase at the political level.

In large part, that’s thanks to the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. Consider the following points for a taste of its findings:

1. Up to 70% of U.S. antibiotics go to animals raised on industrial farms that aren’t sick, to offset crowding and poor sanitation. The practice promotes the development of deadly strains of drug-resistant bacteria that can spread to humans.

2. Food-borne bacteria are more dangerous in their antibiotic-resistant forms, because they are harder to treat and may require multiple antibiotic treatments, longer hospital stays and other interventions before finally being eliminated.

3. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cost the U.S. health care system an estimated $4 billion to $5 billion per year.

4. Each year, 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths are caused by food contaminated by dangerous pathogens and bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli, which are increasingly becoming antibiotic resistant.

… among other frightening results.

But the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), which traditionally supports animal agriculture, disagrees. Here’s an excerpt from its position statement (on the subject of Obama’s proposed ban on non-therapeutic antimicrobials in animal feed):

“This type of broad-based ban is contrary to the practice of veterinary medicine and is not risk-based. As legislation concerning the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is considered by Congress, it is imperative that decisions be made based upon the science supporting the issue.”

Essentially, my profession’s leading organization says there’s little evidence to show that Point 1 has anything to do with Points 2 through 4. Correlation has been established, as it has for human misuse of antibiotics and the development of bacterial resistance. Causality has yet to be teased out —— something nearly impossible to achieve, whether for human misuse or animal overmedication. Yet it’s on this basis that we are asked to limit our enthusiasm for the obvious: Treat agricultural species like we treat ourselves and our pets. Give them antibiotics only when they’re sick.

Then we’re subjected to the most offensive argument offered by an animal-health-supporting body:

“The AVMA opposes this legislation because it would increase animal disease and death — an unfortunate and unintended consequence — without assurance of improving human health. As defined within the text of the legislation, elimination of “non-therapeutic” uses of antimicrobials would disallow disease prevention and potentially control uses.”

It’s true: The animal agriculture industry keeps infections at a manageable level by tamping them down with routine antibiotic use. If this kind of legislation is enacted, I have no doubt our agricultural animals that currently consume drugs daily will be less healthy in the short term. And, yes, that has implications for human health, animal welfare and the price you pay at the supermarket. (Check out the antibiotic-free meats if you care to compare.)

Nonetheless, I believe the Pew people have put their finger on the pulse of industrial animal agriculture and found it artificially strong. Like me, they see antibiotic use not only as a threat to human health, but as an animal welfare issue in and of itself.

After all, antibiotic use in animal agriculture makes sense primarily because of how we crowd and transport our creatures. Remove the antibiotics, and more animals will surely get sick in the short term. But long-term, that only means the industry will be forced to reform how it houses and ships its “widgets.”

Yes, long-term, I predict the trend toward voluntarily paying more at the supermarket (as some of us do now when we buy our antibiotic-free meats) will become mainstream as we’re forced to revert to meats raised in less intensive, drug-addled, hormone-laced environments — for the good of our public health.

Even if it does shrink the wallet somewhat, how bad can it be if it ultimately means Americans are persuaded to eat less of what we currently overeat?

via Antibiotics benefit farm animals (and people), but at what cost? – USATODAY.com.

Dr. Court’s Comments:

I always recommend that my patients eat as organic as possible.  This includes buying meats that are antibiotic free.  The meat industry in this country has become like every other large industry; it is dominated by large corporations who will stop at nothing to make more money.  This includes mistreating the animals and feeding them drugs and other chemicals so their when they are sold per pound they weigh more and collect more profit.

It is shameful, but it occurs everyday on farms and in slaughter houses around the country.  Let’s forget for a minute that what is done to these animals is not humane and consider the consequences on your health.

Do you want to consume the meat of an animal that has been injected with drugs and chemicals? Where do you think these chemicals go?  If you consume the meat, they go into you, that’s where.  While the antibiotics may reduce bacterial loads in meat it can create problems for you.  It can alter your gut flora causing you to absorb undigested proteins, fungus, parasites and other things that are not conducive with healthy living.

This is not just a question of animal welfare and treatment.  This is a major health problem in the US and changing it would change our meat supply for the better and result in healthier people across the country.

While free range, antibiotic, organic meat is more expensive, it is also much healthier for you.  Isn’t your health worth it?

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Chemical Banned in 160 Countries Injected into U.S. Livestock Before Slaughter

Ractopamine, aka Paylean and Optaflexx, is banned in 160 countries, including Europe, Taiwan and China. If imported meat is found to contain traces of the drug, it is turned away, while fines and imprisonment result for its use in banned countries.

Yet, in the United States 45 percent of pigs, 30 percent of ration-fed cattle, and an unknown percentage of turkeys are pumped full of this drug in the days leading up to slaughter.

Why?

This drug, manufactured by Elanco Animal Health, increases protein synthesis. In other words, it makes animals more muscular … and this increases food growers’ bottom line.

Adding insult to injury, up to 20 percent of ractopamine remains in the meat you buy from the supermarket, according to veterinarian Michael W. Fox. Yet this drug is marked “Not for use in humans,” and is known to increase death and disability in livestock.

Why is Ractopamine Allowed in U.S. Meat?

While other drugs require a clearance period of around two weeks to help ensure the compounds are flushed from the meat prior to slaughter (and therefore reduce residues leftover for human consumption), there is no clearance period for ractopamine.

In fact, food growers intentionally use the drug in the last days before slaughter in order to increase its effectiveness.

“How does a drug marked, “Not for use in humans. Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Use protective clothing, impervious gloves, protective eye wear, and a NIOSH-approved dust mask” become “safe” in human food? With no washout period?” asks columnist Martha Rosenberg.

She answers:

“The same way Elanco’s other two blockbusters, Stilbosol (diethylstilbestrol or DES), now withdrawn, and Posilac or bovine growth hormone (rBST), bought from Monsanto in 2008, became part of the nation’s food supply: shameless corporate lobbying.

A third of meetings on the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s public calendar in January 2009 were with Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly — or about ractopamine.”

Massive Industry Lobbying Gets Agribusiness What it Wants … at Your Expense

Industrial agriculture lobbyists wield incredible power in Congress, and the fact that ractopamine is in U.S. meat is a shining testimony to this.

Time magazine put it quite well when they described current farm policy as “a welfare program for the megafarms that use the most fuel, water and pesticides; emit the most greenhouse gases; grow the most fattening crops; hire the most illegals; and depopulate rural America.”

There are too many conflicts of interest to name, but, for example, you may be surprised to learn that former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is now the Secretary of Agriculture, an appointment that took place despite massive public outcry.

What was needed for an effective Secretary of Agriculture was someone who would develop and implement a plan that promotes family-scale farming and a safe and nutritious food system with a sustainable and organic vision.

What we got was yet another politician who’s already made room in his bed for the industry lobby. Overall, Vilsack’s record is one of aiding and abetting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or factory farms (the ones that use chemicals like ractopamine) and promoting animal cloning.

Cozy Connections Allowed rbGH Hormones in Your Dairy Products, Too

Michael Taylor, a former vice president of public policy and chief lobbyist at Monsanto Company, is now the senior advisor for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Who is Michael Taylor?

He is the person who not only “oversaw the creation of GMO policy,” according to Jeffrey Smith, the leading spokesperson on the dangers of GM foods, but also oversaw the policy regarding Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH/rbST).

This growth hormone, which has been banned in Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand because of cancer risks and other health concerns, was approved in the United States while Taylor was in charge at the FDA. Smith writes:

“Taylor also determined that milk from injected cows did not require any special labeling. And as a gift to his future employer Monsanto, he wrote a white paper suggesting that if companies ever had the audacity to label their products as not using rbGH, they should also include a disclaimer stating that according to the FDA, there is no difference between milk from treated and untreated cows.”

Taylor’s white paper, which again was untrue as even FDA scientists acknowledged differences in the rbGH milk, allowed Monsanto to sue dairies that labeled their products rbGH-free!

In a similar vain, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Office of Surveillance and Compliance sent a 14-page warning letter to Elanco regarding ractopamine three years after its approval for use in pigs. They accused the company of withholding information about “safety and effectiveness” and “adverse animal drug experiences.”

Nonetheless, the next year the FDA decided to approved ractopamine for use in cattle, too, and later for turkeys as well.

What Should You do if You Don’t Want Drugs and Chemicals in Your Food?

As the U.S. agriculture industry now stands, antibiotics, pesticides, GM ingredients, hormones and countless other drugs are fair game in your food. So if you purchase your food from a typical supermarket, you are taking your chances that your food is teeming with chemicals and drugs — even those that have been banned in other countries.

So please do your health a favor and support the small family farms in your area. You’ll receive nutritious food from a source that you can trust, and you’ll be supporting the honest work of a real family farm.

It all boils down to this: if you want to optimize your health, you must return to the basics of healthy food choices. Put your focus on WHOLE foods — foods that have not been processed or altered from their original state — food that has been grown or raised as nature intended, without the use of chemical additives, drugs, hormones, pesticides and fertilizers.

It’s as simple as that!

It is not nearly as daunting a task as it may seem to find a local farmer that can supply your family with healthy, humanely raised animal products and produce. At LocalHarvest.org, for instance, you can enter your zip code and find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, all with the click of a button.

Once you make the switch from supermarket to local farmer, the choice will seem natural, and you can have peace of mind that the food you’re feeding your family is safe.

Above article via www.mercola.com

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