Thursday, April 26, 2007

Human Antibiotic Considered for Use in Cows

Giving powerful antibiotics to animals that serve as food is not something we should be doing, as this LA Times editorial points out:

The drug, cefquinome, belongs to a class of antibiotics used as a last line of defense for patients with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly or children with cancer. The veterinary drug company Intervet wants to use cefquinome as a treatment mostly for bovine respiratory disease, a common illness in cattle that are shipped and corralled in feedlots. Crowded and stressed, these cattle are more susceptible to the disease.

Unlike other antibiotics that are routinely added to livestock feed to prevent disease and promote growth, cefquinome must be injected and could be used only with a prescription. But so-called shipping fever is common and costly enough in cattle that medical groups are rightly alarmed that the use of cefquinome would become routine or even preventive. The American Medical Assn. and American Public Health Assn. are among several health organizations opposing cefquinome as a treatment for cattle.

Changing farming practices would go a long way toward reducing the spread of the disease, but that's not on the livestock industry's agenda.

No it's not, because that would be more expensive and would raise the cost of beef. But our current system is unhealthy for the animals, unhealthy for us, and is unsustainable and immoral. That the livestock industry even wants to give to cows an an antibiotic that's reserved for people with cancer-and trust me it will become routine-is a sign that it's past time for our practices to change.

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