Antibiotic resistance has been making headlines across America recently—and for good reason: our life-saving, medically critical antibiotics are losing their effectiveness, in part due to the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. The FDA estimates that currently over 80% of antibiotics in the US are used in livestock. And this abuse of antibiotics is creating some serious consequences.
Researchers at Rutgers and Columbia University recently found a new strain of E. coli that is resistant to several antibiotics of last resort in the US. This new “superbug” could cause infections that are incredibly difficult to treat.
Just last week, the United Nations held a rare general assembly session on the public health threat posed by antibiotic resistance.
As the case against the overuse of antibiotics in animal production grows, more and more companies are heeding the call to stop this damaging practice. Most recently (and perhaps surprisingly) McDonalds announced that it has transitioned to using chicken raised without medically important antibiotics in all of its U.S. locations.
With the growing movement against the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture, more companies are announcing some change to their policy for using these life-saving drugs. But the fight against the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms can’t be won on a company-by-company basis. We need to change the rules for how antibiotics are used.
Shopping Smarter Isn’t Enough
While it’s important that individual companies are making the transition to reduced antibiotic use, it isn’t enough to solve the problem. “Voting with our dollars” at the supermarket can’t create the lasting change we need.
Large-scale factory farms are growing at an alarming rate in the United States and these facilities depend on the routine use of low-dose antibiotics to compensate for stressful living conditions. Left unchecked, these factory farms spell disaster for our public health and environment. Some factory farms may choose to change their practices, but that isn’t nearly enough. Too many facilities are still misusing antibiotics and contributing to this growing crisis.
What’s more, antibiotic-resistant bacteria don’t discriminate—whether you are a vegetarian, vegan, or buy only organic meat, you are still susceptible to these “superbugs.” Antibiotic resistant bacteria doesn’t just live in livestock and meat, but spreads to our environment as well.
To win the fight against antibiotic resistance, we need more than our individual choices—we need to pass legislation that would ban all nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics in livestock and set up strict, enforceable standards.
Take action today and tell Congress to save antibiotics for medicine, not factory farms.