Bugging Out on Factory FarmsPosted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on September 18, 2013
Our national reliance on factory-farmed food has brought us to the brink of a public health crisis—in which even a simple staph infection could become lethal. This potential nightmare scenario was just verified by an alarming report on the dangerous epidemic of drug-resistant bacteria (known as “superbugs”) spreading through farms and hospitals. The report, issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “encourages and supports efforts to minimize inappropriate use of antibiotics in humans and animals” and verifies that “resistant bacteria can be transmitted by food-producing animals to humans through the food supply.”
What does this mean for animals? This report sheds more light on the real culprit behind a plethora or health threats like E. coli and salmonella outbreaks, pink slime, ractopamine-laced feed additives, and even deadly Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome (aka mad-cow disease): the intense confinement of farmed animals. Billions of animals in the U.S. suffer unimaginably before and during their slaughter for food in systems of intensive confinement—including gestation crates for pregnant pigs and “battery cages” for egg-laying hens—that often leave them unable even to turn around. Cramming animals into filthy, wretched, and disease-prone conditions like this is not only cruel—it’s a serious threat to human health.
In response, the Animal Legal Defense Fund recently submitted a first-of-its-kind legal petition asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to protect animals and consumers by mandating proper labels on meat and poultry products derived from animals given antibiotics. In July, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and a coalition of public interest groups like the Sierra Club, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, and Friends of Family Farmers, sent a formal letter asking the USDA to accept ALDF’s petition. Rep. Slaughter also reintroduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2013 (PAMTA) along with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).
Meanwhile, Senators Dianne Feinstein, Susan Collins, and Kirsten Gillibrand have introduced the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act (2013), a related bipartisan-backed bill, which directs the FDA to phase out the rampant misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture. As an addendum to our rulemaking petition, ALDF will ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider this CDC report and a recent Johns Hopkins report linking antibiotics used on farmed animals with the increasing trend of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in humans.
As I explained in my recent Huffington Post article, nearly 80% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on factory-farmed animals who are confined in unsanitary, painfully-cramped quarters. The horrific way this industry treats animals has created a health crisis of potentially catastrophic proportions. It is time for us all to reconsider the consequences of industrial agriculture and the way we eat.