Aug 16, 2013 - In an exclusive interview for Examiner.com, Director of Litigation for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Carter Dillard, talked about the need for labeling and awareness of the dangers present in the meat products that are available to everyone in grocery stores. The American non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has started a petition that targets the USDA and the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). According to the press release, the petition asks for transparency when labeling meat products and changing the standard for the use of the term “antibiotic free.” This petition would be the first consumer-oriented legal action aimed at alerting the public, via food labeling, to the health hazards posed by antibiotic abuse on factory farms.
The ALDF is not alone in the fight for proper labeling of food. They have on their side Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). She is familiar with the topic due to her extensive fight to introduce The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). Rep Slaughter was quoted by the gmo-journal.com in response to the FDA’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) “[W] e are standing on the brink of a public health catastrophe.”
If labeling were present on the product, it would tackle more than just one issue. Labeling could lead to benefiting animals by improving their living conditions. According to Mr. Dillard, the issue of living conditions and the use of antibiotics are closely linked. “We think consumers do not really know the truth about antibiotics. The use of antibiotics allows intensive confinement of the animals. We believe as people become educated on antibiotics, they will avoid the products and therefore avoid patronizing systems that require intensive confinement.”
Factory Farms, Antibiotics and Humans
Factory farms lead to a large concentration of animals, animal waste, and dead animals going unnoticed. Therefore, there is a need for the animals to be given antibiotics. It is not because the animal may be sick, but is given as for a “just in case” purpose. About 70 percent of antibiotics in the USA go to farm animals. Since 1977 The FDA has been aware that by adding antibiotics for human medicine to animal feed increases the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria. After 35 years of collecting data they have not taken any action in order to benefit humans.
There is the existence of a superbug and its threat to humankind. Superbugs are 'highly-resistant' to antibiotics. Any human could be infected through food or water with these superbugs. According to Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, superbugs are resistant to nearly all antibiotics, have high mortality rates, killing half of people with serious infections.
At the moment there are administrative petitions and proposed legislations that deal with limiting the use of antibiotics in the United States. While the ALDF opposes the current way that antibiotics are used, their petition is relevantly different to those promoting the limiting use of antibiotics in farm animals. Mr. Dillard explained that at the very least consumers should know that the food that is being produced contains subtherapeutic antibiotics. If labels with the information would be placed on meat products people would be able to make an educated decision on facts as to whether to consume the meat or not.
Professionals of the Medical Department and the Superbugs
In March of 2013, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) presented the report “When Antibiotics Stop Working” and called for a ban on antibiotics to livestock feed. The 15-page report explains that Doctors are facing the extinction of effective antibiotics. According to Medicalnewstoday.com, bacteria are adapting to existing antibiotics which makes them less effective when treating infections. Skin infections, urinary tract infections and pneumonia can be caused by these bacteria, making the infections deadly.
“There is an outcry regarding the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. By requiring labels, the average consumers will know about the outcry. The use of antibiotics is regulated in the United States. But farmers are given too much leeway as to which antibiotics to use. The only reason why they are using antibiotics is to raise their profit margin and they are doing so at the cost of public health ” stated Mr. Dillard.
At the start of 2013, Dame Sally, Chief Medical Officer of England, warned British lawmakers about how antibiotic resistant disease could cause an apocalyptic scenario and should be considered national risk of civil emergency.
“According to the Infectious Diseases Society of America, almost 2 million Americans per year develop hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), resulting in 99,000 deaths, the vast majority of which are due to antibacterial (antibiotic)-resistant pathogens. MRSA alone kills more people (approximately 19,000) than HIV/AIDS. Although the number of these fatalities linked to livestock is not known, we do know that over 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are used in food animals (and the vast majority of this use is for animals that are not sick).” - NRDC
Superbugs are amongst us?
On Aug 12 2013, CBS12 News Florida, reported that high levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria were found in the Indian River Lagoon in Fort Pierce. The bacteria were also detected in wastewater, surface water, ground water and sediments. The superbugs are not limited to be found only where animals are kept; now they are to be found everywhere.
Throughout the Internet on a simple Google search, there are many different agencies that are against the thought of a ban of antibiotics on farm animals. One of those groups is the Animal Health Institute. That is evident in their mission statement, which clearly shows for whom they are advocating: “Effectively advocating for our member and affiliates with government agencies.”
According to Mr. Dillard there are a lot of groups in the USA that are lobbying for the use of antibiotics. “If consumers are informed they will try to make choices that are healthier and better for the environment and for the animals” he said.
When asked about whether people believe that by raising their own animals and killing them would be a healthier solution, Mr. Dillard responded: “We are concerned about backyard slaughter houses. People have to realize that there is more suffering for the animal and more contamination because the people are not trained, conditions are even worse. Instead of buying factory farm meat or dealing with backyard slaughter, people can always change their diet and eliminate meat altogether like former President Bill Clinton and so many others.
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