Demand Supervision of Steroid Use in Farm Animals


Target: Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the US Food and Drug Administration

Goal: Require trained medical supervision whenever farm animals are treated with antibiotics or other drugs

An analysis conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2001 and 2010 found that antibiotics in farm animal feed contribute to more treatment-resistant infections in people. Roughly 23,000 Americans die every year from antibiotic-resistant infections. No less sobering is a survey from the US Department of Agriculture which found that less than half of dairy farmers follow the recommendations of veterinarians in administering antibiotics to farm animals.

An estimated eighty percent of antibiotics in the US are used to treat livestock: to prevent the spread of easily transmitted illnesses in large-scale feed lots, to cure existing ailments and to increase the weight of livestock–a practice banned in Europe. Administering drugs to farm animals without medical supervision has been condemned by the World Organization for Animal Health. Farmers are generally not trained in the use of these drugs, and are not certified to assess the risks associated with the drugs’ use or overuse.

The FDA has tried to limit and regulate the use of antibiotics in farm animals, but to little avail. In 1973 it adopted regulations requiring companies selling the drugs for use on animals to submit studies proving that the drugs’ use would not promote bacterial resistance to it. Though implemented, subsequent FDA studies of animal feed showed that the practice does indeed promote resistance to infections in humans. The agency was poised to withdraw approval for animal feed with antibiotic additives in 1977, but never followed through.

Antibiotic overuse and abuse in livestock has put consumers’ health at risk. Urge the FDA to require trained medical supervision for the administration of all drugs to farm animals.


Dear Mr. Taylor,

The overuse of antibiotics in the US contributes to roughly 23,000 deaths per year from antibiotic-resistant infections. Eighty percent of all antibiotics in America are used to treat livestock, and there is significant concern that animal feed with antibiotic additives is accelerating the treatment resistance of infections in humans.

While overuse of antibiotics must be stemmed, proper regulation and administration of these drugs would at least lessen potential abuse. The US Department of Agriculture found that less than half of all dairy farmers took the advice of veterinarians when administering antibiotics to their animals. If a doctor has to write a prescription for antibiotic use in humans, why would the same requirement not be in place for livestock?

I urge you to implement regulations requiring supervision by trained veterinary professionals whenever drugs are administered to farm animals.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Billy Hathorn via Wikimedia Commons

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