Create International Limits for Antibiotic Use on Livestock

chickens-Lance Cheung

Target: José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

Goal: Fight the creation of dangerous “superbugs” and create international limits for the use of antibiotics in raising livestock.

The rampant overuse of antibiotics at industrial farms is pushing humanity towards a serious health crisis. Evidence of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” developing in the guts of livestock has set off an alarm among health professionals worldwide, and many are urging governments to act immediately to curtail the misuse of these important drugs.

Around 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to cows, pigs, and poultry–not humans. The drugs are generally added directly into animal feed and are overwhelmingly used as a preventative measure to combat the squalid conditions of many industrial farms. This raises an ethical question as well as the already apparent health concerns.

Animals should be housed in appropriate conditions to prevent health problems, not continually fed antibiotics that are meant for human use. Furthermore, when antibiotics are given repeatedly, or courses of the medications are not followed fully, the drugs succeed only in killing the weaker bacteria strains and leaving behind the more robust ones. This is the avenue through which superbugs develop.

These powerful germs can travel on meat purchased by consumers, farm workers, or even through soil or water supplies when animal waste washes into the environment. When these bacteria infect individuals, a regular course of antibiotics that would have knocked out the infection years ago will now likely be useless. Doctors will be forced to provide stronger drugs or search for other treatment methods that may pose much greater risks to the patient.

There is a nearly worldwide consensus that the abuse of antibiotics in industrial farming is a dangerous practice. Despite this, few governments have taken serious action to limit the use of antibiotics on livestock. It is important that leaders of influential nations come together and draft a plan for attacking this problem head-on.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has recognized this but not yet developed concrete limits for nations to abide by–something that must be done if the problem is to be taken seriously. Sign the petition below to urge the Director-General of the FAO take greater action against antibiotic resistance.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Director-General Graziano,

As I’m sure you are aware, the development of drug-resistant bacteria poses a serious threat to global health. Recently, the discovery of bacteria resistant to colistin, an important antibiotic used to treat human infections, in livestock in China raised a red flag for world health professionals. The message is clear–overuse of antibiotics in livestock production must be curtailed immediately.

Antibiotics added to animal feed are rarely used to actually treat diseases, but rather to prevent them in an environment that is often unfit for healthy animals. Not only does this practice circumvent the real issue of terrible living conditions for farm animals, it also creates the perfect environment for bacteria to evolve to resist treatment. As the resulting “superbugs” spread through meat, farm workers, and water and soil contamination, doctors are forced to use riskier tactics to combat the fierce infections caused by them.

By allowing the abuse of antibiotics on farms, we greatly jeopardize human health through the reduced effectiveness of these important drugs. Please act now to fight an impending epidemic and impose strict limitations on antibiotic use on livestock worldwide.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Lance Cheung

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