Industry allies continue to reject facts about antibiotic use in animal agriculture

cow feedlot.jpg


This week, an industry-leaning commentary with an academic veneer appeared on the Dairyherd Network, repeating industry arguments that rely on inaccurate facts that have been rebutted by scientists and public health and medical organizations to argue against banning the unnecessary and risky agricultural overuse of life-saving antibiotics.

The Dairyherd blog would be more credible if it was not so inaccurate. 

The blog reiterates industry’s often repeated claim that there is no scientific evidence linking antibiotic use in livestock and increased resistance in humans.  This is patently not the case.  A long list of scientific, medical, and health organizations and authorities concur that there is ample scientific evidence that the overuse and misuse of antibiotics on healthy animals is a major factor in the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and that it is contributing to public health risks. 


photo: courtesy of dogtooth77, on Flickr

The blog also points to an increase in the therapeutic use of antibiotics in Denmark, following a ban on growth promoters in feed, and alleges that there's been no documentation that antibiotic resistance in the human population has declined since the ban.  The blog neglects to mention that overall antibiotic use in all food animal production in Denmark remains nearly 40% lower than when the ban was first put in place or that therapeutic use poses much less antibiotic-resistance risk than low-dose application, as this blog from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future points out.  Nor does the Dairyherd blog mention that the ban has led to a markedly lower level of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in Danish meat, as pointed out in the testimony of a representative of the Danish government before a Congressional committee.

The Dairyherd blog’s attempt to point to antibiotic resistance related to the medical use of antibiotics is just an attempt to shift attention from the agricultural uses which constitute the vast majority of antibiotic use in the U.S. and are recognized to be a significant part of the problem.  Antibiotic resistance related to medical use does not excuse irresponsible use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. 


pigs cafo.jpg

image: from

The blog makes a show of accepting that animal agriculture should not be completely off the hook and of recognizing that judicious use of antibiotics is required and essential for public health.  But it is conspicuous in failing to detail what that judicious use looks like.  It argues that the sole focus should not be on animal agriculture.  Nobody is arguing that it should be.  Doctors and hospitals are working diligently to carefully prescribe the use of antibiotics.  Many of us have been told by our doctors to finish our full dose of antibiotics, and have increasingly seen our doctors prescribing antibiotics only as a last resort.  Which also raises the question:  if judicious use of antibiotics doesn’t mean protecting these vital medicines for human use unless needed to treat sick animals, what does it mean?  And why is industry opposing such common-sense limitations?

Related Issues
Agriculture & Food

Related Blogs