Superbugs And Large Scale Use Of Antibiotics In Livestock Feeding

8517 words - 34 pages

As the world’s population continues to grow exponentially, the area of arable farmland shrinks. As a result, new techniques in agriculture have been developed in order to produce more food using less land. Many of these techniques are considered innovative but come at the cost of the environment or human morality. One example, the large-scale use of antibiotics in livestock feeding, has become a staple of the American agriculture industry. Of all the agricultural advancements the industry has made since the days of the horse and plow, none has been as threatening to human health as the use of sub therapeutic levels of antibiotics (Schneider). Antibiotics are useful for sick animals, just as they are useful for sick humans. In the livestock industry, their indiscriminate use on healthy animals, while cost effective for the meat industry, results in the breeding of dangerous antibiotic bacteria called “superbugs” which have the potential to devastate consumers’ health. "We talk about a pre-antibiotic era and an antibiotic era,” CDC’s director, Dr. Thomas Frieden said in his publication of “Antibiotic Resistance Threats”. "If we're not careful, we'll be in a post-antibiotic era. For some patients and some microbes, we're already there” (Kerestes, 2010). This scenario is just one of the many situations where short-term corporate profit is pitted against the environment, and in turn, consumers’ safety.
In the modern agriculture industry, antibiotics are regularly fed to livestock such as chicken, pigs, and cattle to increase the growth rate of these animals. The livestock industry currently feeds 70 percent of the national antibiotic supply to healthy livestock. The remaining 14 and 16 percent, respectively, are used to treat sick livestock and humans (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2001). This inordinate use of antibiotics reduces the overall strength of them. A common argument supporting the continued use of antibiotics is that of supply and demand. In order to keep pace with the massive quantity of meat demanded by American consumers, the meat industry claims no other feasible option than to use antibiotics (Parente, 2012). However, this argument is flawed because the meat industry in the European Union, “where a similar amount of meat [to that of the U.S.] is consumed”, the use of sub-theraputic (and therefore dangerous) levels of antibiotics is outlawed (Borell 1997). Currently, “approximately 13.5 million pounds of antimicrobials prohibited in the European Union are used in agriculture for nontherapeutic purposes every year by U.S. livestock producers” (Union of Concerned Scientists 2001). Therefore, it is an easy counterargument to make against the U.S. cattle industry that if the European Union can produce enough consumable meat without the constant antibiotic use, then the United States could feasibly do the same. The sad reality is that the American pharmaceutical and agricultural industries are likely too greedy to change their...

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