Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Obama Administration Looking to Ban Routine Antibiotics in Animals

I've written several posts about the deleterious effects of antibiotics in the livestock that we raise for food including (but not limited to) the encouragement of drug resistance in strains of bacteria that infect animals and humans. For this reason, the Obama administration is proposing to ban or restrict the use of antibiotics in livestock:

In written testimony to the House Rules Committee, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said feeding antibiotics to healthy chickens, pigs and cattle — done to encourage rapid growth — should cease. And Dr. Sharfstein said farmers should no longer be able to use antibiotics in animals without the supervision of a veterinarian.

Both practices lead to the development of bacteria that are immune to many treatments, he said.

The hearing was held to discuss a measure proposed by Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York and chairwoman of the Rules Committee. It would ban seven classes of antibiotics important to human health from being used in animals, and would restrict other antibiotics to therapeutic and some preventive uses.

The legislation is supported by the American Medical Association, among other groups, but opposed by farm organizations like the National Pork Producers Council. The farm lobby’s opposition makes its passage unlikely, but advocates are hoping to include the measure in the legislation to revamp the health care system.

In no way is it considered good medical practice to give antibiotics to otherwise healthy people to prevent illness, and the only reason the same is done with livestock is because doing so helps to hide the damage modern factory farming methods do to the animals they are used upon. Removing antibiotics as a crutch will force an improvement (however slight) in how animals are treated, and is good for the public health. However it's passage comes about, this is legislation that we have long been need of.

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