End the Non-Medical Use of Antibiotics on Animals

Target: Congresswoman Louise Slaughter

Goal: Applaud proposed ban of non-therapeutic use of antibiotics on livestock.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has so far failed to follow through on its 1977 proposal to ban the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in agriculture.  Long recognized as a cause of antibiotic-resistance in many harmful diseases, the administration of drugs in animal feed for sub-therapeutic purposes has been banned or regulated in countries across Europe for decades.  In the U.S., the only proposed legislation that comes close to fulfilling the FDA’s original promise is the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), first introduced to congress by Representative Louise Slaughter in 2007.  Since then, the Act has failed to sign five times, despite rising mortality rates across the nation from drug-resistant diseases.

Today, close to 80% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to livestock.  Rather than preserve these medically important drugs for sick animals, industrial farmers regularly feed them to livestock as a prophylactic against potential infection.  This practice ultimately allows feedlots to hold animals in cramped, unsanitary conditions, increasing their chances of contracting and spreading illness.  Non-therapeutic provision of antibiotics is also a proven method of artificially stimulating growth and weight gain.

Reports claim that 1 in 20 hospitals in the U.S. are contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria.  This year alone, as many as 2 million Americans are expected to acquire infections during routine hospitalization.  Over 100,000 will die from them.  Of particular concern is MRSA, estimated to have killed 18,000 people last year in the U.S.  Studies suggest that a new strain of this “superbug” is readily crossing between livestock and humans.  The strain has been linked back to antibiotic treated pigs at feedlots.  In one comprehensive study, this livestock-derived MRSA was detected in nearly half of all meat sold at commercial markets.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s PAMTA seeks to preserve antibiotic use for animals that are truly sick. The bill is endorsed by nearly 500 professional organizations, including the WHO, AMA, and National Academy of Sciences. The legislation would review for recall eight classes of antibiotics currently used for non-therapeutic purposes in livestock.  It would then prohibit the use of medically important drugs unless proven to carry negligible risk to humans.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Congresswoman Louise Slaughter,

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose an increasing threat to the health of humankind.  Agriculture’s excessive use of medically important drugs for non-therapeutic use in livestock has led to the evolution of potentially untreatable diseases.

The FDA has backed down on their commitment to review and ban the nonessential dispensation of antibiotics despite mounting evidence of its risks to human health.  PAMTA is one of the few measures in the U.S. introduced to combat this growing problem.

I applaud your efforts to increase awareness of the dangers of antibiotic resistance.  Thank you for your persistence in urging an Act that has all the power, money and lobbying of industrial agriculture and big pharmaceutical companies against it.  Please continue to endorse legislation that will prevent the spread of disease and alert congress to the dangers of drug-resistant bacteria.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: NIAID via Flickr

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