It’s difficult to pick up a newspaper these days without being reminded of the escalating public health threat posed by super bugs and antibiotic resistance. That’s in part due to the fact that a whopping 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are actually used in factory farms to compensate for stressful, filthy, crowded conditions. That’s why last year Food & Water Watch launched its campaign to save antibiotics for medicine, not factory farms.
Since then, we’ve seen some great developments in the movement to keep these vital drugs working for us when we need them most. In February, the city council of Olympia, Washington became the 51st local government to pass a resolution calling for federal action to end the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Today, Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) stepped up and reintroduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA).
We applaud Representative Slaughter’s efforts on this front. Over two million Americans suffer from an antibiotic-resistant infection every year, and 23,000 people die from them. The FDA has known about the problem of antibiotics misuse since at least 1977, but has not required factory farms to stop this dangerous practice, instead leaving it to industry to enact voluntary efforts to solve the problem.
If the federal government’s abdication of responsibility of major public health and safety functions sounds familiar, that’s for good reason. From antibiotics overuse, to fracking, to privatizing poultry inspection and more, our government has a long track record of letting corporations police themselves. But leaving critical public health functions to companies more concerned with profits than the public does us all a disservice. And in the case of antibiotics, it’s making us sick—both figuratively and literally.
Routine, non-therapeutic use of antibiotics has no place in factory farms, particularly when they’re being used to address illnesses brought about by poor conditions. We can’t let the meat and pharmaceutical industries run roughshod over our collective well being because they’d prefer to address larger, systemic problems about the way our food is produced with quick fixes. We’ve given the industry enough time to figure this out. It’s time for government intervention such as Slaughter’s bill.
How can you help? Take action today and tell your member of Congress to pass legislation to end the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Then check with your local elected officials to find out where your community stands on the critical public health issue, and consider urging your local leaders to pass a resolution calling for the end of misuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Sign up to help pass a resolution.