Credit where credit is due

July 15, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More

I’ve criticized President Obama for not keeping his campaign pledges to end the faith-based initiative and restore transparency to government, but when he does something right, I’ll give him credit where credit is due. So, it’s good to see him taking this unapologetically progressive stance on an issue where some reason is badly needed – the precautionary use of antibiotics in animals raised on factory farms:

The Obama administration announced Monday that it would seek to ban many routine uses of antibiotics in farm animals in hopes of reducing the spread of dangerous bacteria in humans.

Image: White House (public domain)

Image: White House (public domain)

…In written testimony to the House Rules Committee, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said feeding antibiotics to healthy chickens, pigs and cattle — done to encourage rapid growth — should cease. And Dr. Sharfstein said farmers should no longer be able to use antibiotics in animals without the supervision of a veterinarian.

Feeding massive doses of antibiotics to farm animals enables them to live in crowded, unsanitary and often inhumane conditions. It also encourages the evolution of antibiotic resistance to the dangerous bacteria that inevitably live inside them, and when those bacteria spread through the food chain to humans, the result is outbreaks of virulent, drug-resistant diseases.

Having recently seen the movie Food, Inc., it’s easy for me to appreciate how serious a threat this is. Antibiotic use, like fossil fuels, have promoted a dangerously unsustainable way of life in our culture. This first attempt may or may not make it past the powerful corporate food lobby – but kudos to the Obama administration for bringing it into the national consciousness in a bold way.


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Category: American Culture, Economy, Food

About the Author ()

I'm an author, skeptic and computer programmer living in New York City. I'm also an unapologetic atheist, and believe passionately that freethinkers deserve a much stronger voice in our culture than they've been given in the past. Since politicians and the mainstream media aren't willing to give us that, it falls to us to take our case directly to the public. Both on my own weblog, Daylight Atheism, and here on Dangerous Intersection, I hope to be able to spread the good news of freethought!

Comments (1)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Ebonmuse: I agree that over-use of antibiotics in farmed animals is a horrible problem. Yes, thank you, Mr. Obama for getting this approach correct (even though I think he is getting quite a few things wrong, especially the economic meltdown).

    I recently read about the tons of strong antibiotics farmers dump into their shrimp farms. The article, by Public Citizen, documents this ghastly practice:

    A host of antibiotics are widely used in aquaculture to stimulate growth and to reduce the incidence and effects of diseases caused by crowded, factory-farm conditions, not unlike the conditions found in chicken factories where antibiotics are also prevalent. . . . The more antibiotics used, however, the more rapidly bacterial resistance develops, and this problem is reaching crisis proportions today. When such resistance develops, bacterial growth is no longer stopped by the antibiotic, and thus the antibiotic is no longer capable of treating or curing the disease. Increasingly more bacteria are becoming resistant not only to one, but many antibiotics, making it more difficult to combat bacteria that cause illnesses in humans.

    The full article is here.

    Unfortunately, while the U.S. is considering clamping down, we freely allow the importation of these over-treated animal products raised outside of the U.S.

    But back to your point. Yes, I'm glad the problem is more visibly on the radar in the U.S.

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