I hate to admit it, but I’m not really that much of a health nut. I eat a lot of salty and fried foods. And I love energy drinks and coffee. I went vegan primarily for ethical reasons and so often stories about health kind of go under my radar. The one health issue that really scares me however, for whatever reason, is the threat of antibiotic resistant pathogens. The sheer amount of antibiotics that is pumped into livestock for consumption in the United States is mind boggling. And over time, consumption of small amounts of antibiotics gradually causes diseases to develop resistances to these antibiotics. It’s like giving a vaccine to the diseases themselves.
This week the FDA issued a warning about the use of antibiotics in livestock and urged meat producers to cut back on them to prevent the evolution of resistant pathogens. The industry uses antibiotics to “increase production and promote growth”, according to the LA times and the FDA wants meat producers to consult more closely with veterinarians to determine when it is prudent to use antibiotics and which ones to use.
This urging by the FDA takes the same middle-of-the-road route that generally comes from mainstream organizations like the FDA. It stated the truth, made recommendations, but fell short of actually taking real action. The meat industry is up in arms saying the FDA is burdening their production with unnecessary recommendations and making the false claim that there are no definitive studies linking the consumption of antibiotics in food to resistant bacteria.
The recommendations however are a disappointment to the Union of Concerned Scientists who were hoping for more serious restrictions on the use of antibiotics in livestock. Margaret Mellon of the Union correctly stated that the meat industry will not take action voluntarily.
The fact of the matter is that as much as we abhor the terrible practices of the livestock industry — like their overuse of antibiotics — the only way they can produce meat to meet the demands of the American population is through such means. Animal agriculture on this scale is by nature completely unsustainable and we are only wasting time by trying to reform an industry that cannot function without using the most wasteful, unethical and unhealthy business practices.
If the FDA recommendations do any good, it will be through convincing the average American that a diet free of animal products is not just good for the animals, it’s also good for their own health.
How many more reports of this nature do we have to see before people on a large scale start to realize how terrible the animal agriculture industry truly is?
Photo: rbrwr via flickr