Court Rules Rampant Misuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms Can Continue

This post was written by Nicole DAlessandro and originally appeared on EcoWatch.

Despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientific findings that the misuse of antibiotics in farm animals threatens human health from “superbugs,” business will continue as usual.

Yesterday, in a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FDA does not need to consider banning the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy animals despite the agency’s findings that this misuse of antibiotics fundamentally threatens the effectiveness of medicines in both humans and animals.

“This decision allows dangerous practices known to threaten human health to continue,” said Avinash Kar, attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Adding antibiotics to farm animals’ feed, day after day, is not what the doctor ordered and should not be allowed.”

The court’s ruling overturned two 2012 district court rulings in cases brought by NRDC, Center for Science in the Public InterestFood Animal Concerns TrustPublic Citizen and Union of Concerned Scientists. The earlier rulings directed the FDA to halt the regular use of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed for healthy animals until drug manufacturers could prove the safety of this practice.

Dissenting Judge Robert Katzmann said, “Today’s decision allows the FDA to openly declare that a particular animal drug is unsafe, but then refuse to withdraw approval of that drug. It also gives the agency discretion to effectively ignore a public petition asking it to withdraw approval from an unsafe drug. I do not believe the statutory scheme can be read to permit those results.”

The practice of feeding low doses of antibiotics to healthy livestock on factory farms is contributing to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, which is a growing public health concern.

The FDA released voluntary guidelines last December to address this non-therapeutic use of medication. A subsequent Food & Water Watch analysis revealed that 89 percent of antibiotic drugs that the guidelines advise against using to speed growth can still be given to healthy animals for other reasons—hence, the voluntary guidelines prove worthless.

“The misuse of antibiotics in food animal production contributes to the epidemic of antibiotic resistance in our hospitals and communities,” said Robert S. Lawrence, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and a professor with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Today’s decision is deeply disappointing because it allows voluntary guidelines to take the place of decisive action in confronting one of the most important public health problems of our time.”

While the appeals court decision is disappointing to those working to keep antibiotics effective, their efforts continue. New York City Council Member Ben Kallos yesterday introduced Resolution 353 calling for a New York State and national ban on non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock.

“American health is directly affected by the conditions on factory farms. Our government must enact basic rules to prevent disease and better some of the most dire practices of modern factory farms,” said Council Member Kallos.

The resolution calls upon the U.S. government to pass two bills, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (H.R. 1150) and the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act (S. 1256). These bills would reinstate what the district courts had ruled in favor of—drug manufacturers would have to prove non-therapeutic antibiotic use will not lead to antibiotic resistance in humans.

“Simply put, the rampant misuse of antibiotics on factory farms is putting the health of every American at risk. Since Congress has yet to protect our health with common-sense farm antibiotics regulations, cities and towns across the country are demanding action,” said Eric Weltman, senior organizer with Food & Water Watch. “But no voice speaks louder than that of New York City, so when this resolution is passed, our leaders in Washington will surely take notice.”

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Elizabeth Z.
Elizabeth Z3 years ago

Go vegan...and no body gets hurt.

Ann B.
Ann B3 years ago

As some people have pointed out, this is so much more than our dietary choices. There are practices by all farmers - animal and plant - that are not good for the earth's future as we currently know it. The earth will likely stay here. Whether we, the humans, are part of it is a different story.

To me, we have such a short-sighted mentality in the US. Clearly not everyone is this way, but in general our policies, company values, politics - it's all about today and about money. It's not about two years from now, let alone ten years from now. We also appear to distrust science. Is that because too many of us to not understand it?

There is clear evidence that the use of antibiotics in farm animals has many adverse consequences. These, however, are more long term. The short term consequences - the farmer makes more money right now and we pay less for our food - are the only positives that I can think of. But, paying less now means we will pay more later. Much more. Especially when we or our children or families are dying or cannot be treated when infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria.

While I do want the farmer to recoup his or her costs and make a good living wage and I'd like all of us to be able to afford food, doing things that harms everyone else in the long run to achieve profits and cheap food isn't the best way to do it. Organic farmers do not use antibiotics in the US and they are profitable, I believe. They couldn't stay in business otherw

Angev GERIDONI3 years ago

I would like to thank all Care2 members who already signed my petition.
if no, please help give an happy end to that sad story :
1) Care 2

But unfortunately this is still not the end of the sufferings for those animals. This Monday 28th july a stray horse was hit by a car and was euthanized due to an open fracture. link : Tribuna de Petropolis
As some people of the city and from the neighborhoods, took them to a sanctuary*, the hope is rising, it's up to you to make it grow by still sharing the petitions. I will tell you more about the sanctuary in the next update...

Thank you for caring

Charlie Rush
Charlene Rush3 years ago

How do these judges get their jobs, anyway?

Robert O.
Robert O3 years ago

This is another reason why adopting a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle is a good idea. With so much animal and antibiotic abuse running rampant it's becoming necessary to do it in order to save one's life.

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M3 years ago

Noted with thanks for the article.It is not necessary to use so many antibiotics, and the FDA is making a big mistake, in my opinion.

Meil Raine Martin

Thank you for share this article. We must always keep a close watch.

Julia H.
Past Member 3 years ago

Instead of making this article yet more fodder for going vegan/vegetarian, how about we address the REAL issue here which is much bigger than your dietary beliefs.

It is all about our elected officials LISTENING to WE THE PEOPLE and putting OUR needs and best interest before their pocketbooks! It is the health of all of us which is at stake as a result of this extremely poor decision made based on pure greed.

It does not matter if you don't eat any meat or dairy. It does not matter that I eat only grass-fed and organic meats and dairy. These drugs will still make it into our system and could result in harming us or someone we love. The only way to stop it is to stop the rampant use of these antibiotics. The only way to get that done is to get the criminals out of office!