[From Mother Jones — By Tom Philpott Fri Jul. 29, 2011]
Read the full article here-
'Here is a document the USDA doesn’t want you to see. It’s what the agency calls a “technical review”—nothing more than a USDA-contracted researcher’s simple, blunt summary of recent academic findings on the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections and their link with factory animal farms. The topic is a serious one. A single antibiotic-resistant pathogen, MRSA—just one of many now circulating among Americans—now claims more lives each year than AIDS.’
'Altogether, the US meat industry uses 29 million pounds of antibiotics every year. To put that number in perspective, consider that we humans in the United States—in all of our prescription fill-ups and hospital stays combined—use just over 7 million pounds per year. Thus the vast bulk of antibiotics consumed in this country, some 80 percent, goes to factory animal farms.
For years, scientists have worried that the industry’s reliance on antibiotics was contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. The European Union took action to curtail routine antibiotic use on farms in 2006 (taking Sweden’s lead, which had banned the practice 20 years before).’
'Assembled by Vaishali Dharmarha, a research assistant at the University of Maryland, the report summarizes research from 63 academic papers and government studies. Here are few of her findings:
• “Use and misuse of antimicrobial drugs in food animal production and human medicine is the main factor accelerating antimicrobial resistance.”
• “[F]ood animals, when exposed to antimicrobial agents, may serve as a significant reservoir of resistant bacteria that can transmit to humans through the food supply.”
• “Several studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella showed that [antibiotic resistance] in Salmonella strains was most likely due to the antimicrobial use in food animals, and that most infections caused by resistant strains are acquired from the consumption of contaminated food.”
• “Farmers and farm workers may get exposed to resistant bacteria by handling animals, feed, and manure. These exposures are of significant concern to public health, as they can transfer the resistant bacteria to family and community members, particularly through person-to-person contacts.”
• “Resistant bacteria can also spread from intensive food animal production area to outside boundaries through contact between food animals and animals in the external environment. Insects, flies, houseflies, rodents, and wild birds play an important role in this mode of transmission. They are particularly attracted to animal wastes and feed sources from where they carry the resistant bacteria to several locations outside the animal production facility.”
My first thought after reading this article was the prisoners at Pelican Bay. Right now, several inmates are refusing state issued meals in California and are requesting better treatment. They are on a hunger strike because they claim they don’t have adequate access to what they need [read about it here].
My second thought is those without healthcare in this country who cannot afford reasonable support. All the while they are existing within an extremely harsh and unhealthy environment. At this point, one could argue that most human beings in the United States do not have access to the amenities which our feedlot livestock receive. Unlimited antibiotics [29 million pounds a year to be exact], free housing, and all the GMO corn you can eat.
Sure, feedlot animals are sick with antibiotic resistant illnesses all the time. Their brethren are dropping like flies all around them, and anguishing poverty and inadequate care are part of everyday existence for factory farm animals.
Living amongst fellow swine in our own shit is no longer the solitary struggle of the animals which we slaughter and consume. We have become so glutinous and rabid in our farming techniques that the methods in which we harvest animals have backfired and are infecting us
The moment the relationship between animal and farmer disintegrated, the animal became a product; a way of profit. It was no longer a respected, living organism and in that process its biological power in the web of life was inherently denied.
The general disconnect with agrarian culture became so globalized that we have come far enough as to deny the fact that animals in mass, unsanitary, and inhumane conditions spread disease and that antibiotics stop working when you use them too much.
The meat industry will just keep on denying animal suffering, and keep killing them with the same filthy blades and disease infested equipment. ‘Oh it’s dirty and spreading disease to millions of animals and human beings? Give them an injection to deal with the shit because we sure as hell aren’t cleaning it up!’
I mean if the people who regulate food are this stupid, I don’t know what to say anymore. I was told in 6th grade by my lame pediatrician [when I asked for a round to treat a little cold] that ‘overusing an antibiotic makes it less powerful and effective.’ Someone forgot to explain this to the USDA. Oh wait, apparently they know, and they still don’t care…and are denying it. [read the Mother Jones article above.]
Our disrespect for livestock has brought us to the ultimate ‘Fuck-you’ biologically speaking. Now their diseases are our diseases. E-coli, salmonella [see this link to the fun Turkey salmonella outbreak death here!], and other antibiotic resistant infections are going to murder innocent consumers.
Smaller scale farms would be more ethically sound and sanitary, but they cannot exist because of the insane global demand for meat in the marketplace. Food prices keep rising, and it isn’t just because some evil corporate big wig is making a buck.
It’s because population is expanding rapidly, and it is also culturally driven. Americans typically feel comfortable demanding some kind of meat or animal product for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you need to butcher and collect eggs and milk from somany thousands of cows and chickens in a single day, you’re going to end up with some problems.
The diseases which are developing as a result of antibiotic usage in factory farm animals are new to medical science. Their effects remain unknown, and perhaps that is just the loophole the USDA was seeking to continue their usage of the antibiotics on feedlot animals.
One cannot escape this wasted food system, but one can resist it. Try a tomato plant. Make a strawberry bed. Plant a fig tree. Save an egg laying hen from certain death and name her Agnus. Understand that there is so much more to food than going to the grocery store. The only way a consumer can monitor their health and prevent attaining these life-threatening diseases is to take matters into their own hands.