COMMENTARY | Since the 1970s, physicians and other scientists have been increasingly concerned with the skyrocketing rates of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. One specific "superbug," known as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is particularly virulent and dangerous, and has been spreading rapidly in animal factory farms. With more than 80 percent of our nation's antibiotics ending up in animal feed, we are now in urgent need of interventions to halt the rise of an unstoppable pandemic.
The Food and Drug Administration has finally taken steps to stall the unnecessary use of antibiotics in livestock, according to a recent press release. As an advocate for human health, the environment, and the well-being of domesticated animals, I was relieved to see that the government is, at long last, discouraging the dangerous overuse of antibiotics in domesticated animals.
The new regulations might not only help prevent the spread of MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant diseases, but could be an important advancement in the health, safety and well-being of captive livestock. Without cheap, unfettered access to antibiotics, farm owners will not be able to maintain the unsanitary, inhumane conditions that tend to incubate dangerous infections. The initiative may lead to cleaner, less hazardous conditions for farm animals and the people who work with them.
Under the new FDA guidelines, certain popular antibiotics will no longer be available to enhance growth or productivity. They will, however, be available under veterinary supervision for animals who are sick and in need of antibiotic treatment. These new guidelines will not hinder injured animals from getting the treatment they need, but they will prevent the unnecessary and prophylactic use of antibiotics in farm animals.
Although these guidelines are voluntary, feed manufacturers, veterinarians, drug manufacturers, and factory-farm owners are expected to comply with the new system, thereby reducing the impact of the meat industry on animal and human health. I hope that these guidelines are only the beginning of a radical change in the way we, as a culture, treat our environment and our animals. Life is far too precious for drugs as miraculous as antibiotics to be wasted mindlessly on healthy animals.
Juniper Russo is a health advocate, freelance writer, and dedicated mom living in Chattanooga, Tenn.