Revisiting Antibiotics Usage in Farming
I've blogged before about the therapeutic use of antibiotics by the cattle, swine, and poultry industries:
[T]he hog industry alone uses three times the amount of all antibiotics used to treat human illnesses... when we count poultry and cattle, nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock rises to eight times total human usage.Now Bill Niman and Nicolette Hahn Niman have written a short piece for Atlantic on the issue, following up on Nicolette's new book:
Over the past several years, each of us have toured numerous industrial-style animal operations, and they were not pretty. We saw pigs confined in metal buildings living on hard, slatted floors and fed daily rations that include such unsavory ingredients as bone meal, blood meal, and drugs, including antibiotics. Stepping into these buildings, we were immediately enveloped by the stench of rotting eggs. The pigs spend 24 hours of every day in crowded conditions standing over their own liquefied manure, bathing in the odor of decaying feces and continually breathing its fumes...It seems to me that the language "therapeutic use of antibiotics by the cattle, swine, and poultry industries" is too antiseptic, too kind, too easy to favorably misinterpret. Let me reword that:
[F]eeding farm animals daily drugs began in poultry production in the 1950s, both as a means to speed animal growth and as a way to control diseases -- an increasingly daunting problem in the crowded confinement buildings that were coming into vogue at the time. Today, confinement operations commonly feed antibiotics to pigs, as well as chickens and turkeys.
In the interest of holding down their expenses, many farmers who raise cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys in disease-encouraging conditions give these animals antibiotics to keep them from becoming sick and to induce them to grow faster. This practice, which totals eight times the total usage of antibiotics by humans, is contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant illnesses, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which may now be responsible for more deaths in the US than AIDS.
When are we going to put an end to this?