Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that I have often written about the danger that the nontheraupetic use of antibiotics on industrial farms may result in the creation of antibiotic resistant superbugs–which might cross species and be devastating to humans.
Few Americans realize that the meat they eat comes from animals that have been dosed with sub-clinical levels of antibiotics to boost growth. The fact that antibiotics stimulate growth in animals was discovered accidently, as a product of the advent of confined animal feeding operations. Now dosing animals with antibiotics is a regular part of their practice.
Amazingly, 80% of all the antibiotics used in America are given to farm animals, making American factory farms a great market for pharmaceutical companies.
In nature bacteria evolve to avoid being killed by antibiotics. Bacteria reproduce at 500,000 times the rate of humans, so natural selection occurs much more rapidly among microbes. It doesn’t take long for bacteria to develop resistance to a particular antibiotic, which is why they are frequently replaced by newer and more powerful ones.
It is well-known that some diseases are capable of transmitting inter-species. During the most recent bird flu and swine flu scares, there was much public concern over this fact.
Should the heavy use of antibiotics on factory farms lead to the development of a fatal bug, resistant to every known antibiotic, which might then migrate into the human population, the consequence could be an epidemic we would be powerless to fight with antibiotics.
Of course even without such a disaster, there could be a disastrous effect on the animal population.
None of these risks are necessary. It is not necessary or natural to give animals antibiotics unless they are sick. And they are far less likely to get sick if they are allowed to live in natural habitats, rather than crowded into cages and feedlots.
Human beings should not be eating animals who have been pumped full of antibiotics.
On this farm we never give an animal antibiotics unless it is sick. We never use antibiotics to stimulate growth.
That is how it should be everywhere. But because faster growth means higher profits, the industrial farms aren’t going to stop dosing their animals.
But nothing is forcing us to eat them.