We're in deep doo-doo from the global threat of superbugs. The December announcement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) puts that threat back in the news. But I'm underwhelmed by FDA's response, and here's why.
Although the FDA is making a public display of ratcheting down antibiotic use in livestock agriculture, a reality check is in order. What has to happen in livestock agriculture is nothing less than a paradigm shift in production practices.
By continuing to turn a blind eye to the indiscriminate use of antibiotics among its meat suppliers in the name of producing so-called cheap meat, Walmart is effectively sanctioning the inevitable rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
I eat meat, and I raise animals to slaughter and butcher for their meat. So, in spite of the fact that measuring suffering is fraught, I use it as one of my guiding principles for providing a high level of animal welfare.
Most antibiotics currently used on farms are not for the treatment of sick animals, or even the prevention of disease, but to promote the growth and weight of livestock. Until recently scientists didn't know how antibiotics stimulated growth.
The question of livestock raising is one that transcends the hubris of production efficiency for humility, compassion, and empathy, which enable us to acknowledge and grant the animals' expression and pursuit of their own interests.
Given the dearth of new medications in the pharmaceutical pipeline, consumers must participate in any way they can to ensure the elimination of antibiotics in livestock, save for treating specific illnesses.
A new book argues that the livestock trade in the Horn of Africa, across Ethiopia, Somaliland, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya, much of it unrecorded, informal and often illegal, amounts to around $1 billion each year.
If the cheetah loses its race for survival, the American Prong-horn Antelope will become the fastest land mammal, and all those textbooks naming the cheetah as the fastest land animal will need to be changed.
So far, 2012 is bringing bad news for people who don't want "free antibiotics" in their food. Antibiotics are routinely given to livestock on factory farms to make them gain weight with less feed and keep them from getting sick in confinement conditions.