New FDA Rules Won’t Fix Factory Farmed Superbugs—or Suffering

Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 11:15am
Cows on a factory farm

Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new guidelines designed to curb the rampant over- and misuse of antibiotics on factory farms: 80 percent of all antibiotics bought in the United States are purchased to give to farm animals, primarily to speed their growth and prevent illnesses that would otherwise spread like wildfire in their unsanitary, crowded conditions. Daily doses of drugs are propping up an inhumane factory farming system and contributing to growing antibiotic resistance among humans, threatening people’s lives as well.

The FDA now acknowledges that antibiotics should not be used to make animals grow faster, which is important, but the new guidelines are voluntary and the same drugs can still be used for “prevention” of illness. Factory farms wouldn’t need to prevent disease so much if the animals were kept in better conditions. But pharmaceutical and agricultural industries have an economic interest in producing as much product, as cheaply as possible, often at the expense of animal welfare, and routine doses of antibiotics are perpetuating this sick system. 

As an example, most of today’s chickens raised for meat spend their lives in giant, windowless sheds where they have less than 1 square foot of space each by the time they are full grown. Breeding for disproportionately large breasts and excessive body weight means they struggle to stand or move. Essentially immobilized in their own waste, chickens raised on factory farms could be at higher risk of carrying Salmonella and other foodborne illnesses. Antibiotics stand in for these birds’ compromised immune systems and allow the meat industry to continue to cut corners dangerously. Farm animals and consumers alike need stronger action from the FDA.

The ASPCA joined forces with a number of animal welfare organizations to issue a statement on the announcement. Learn more about factory farming and what you can do to help improve the lives of billions of farm animals by checking out our web pages and joining our advocacy brigade.  

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The very best thing we can all do is to stop eating meat. I don't mean stop overnight. But you can start to slowly wean yourself off meat. I did it. It was the best thing I've ever done!

Francis Pryor

If it is cruel to give antibiotics to sick cows, then it has to be just as bad to give them to children. I don't know of anybody that gives antibiotics to make calves grow. It may happen but we run 150 head and have never done it..

Nancy P.

The only way to keep animals free from harm is to stop eating them. Factory farms exist out of necessity. It would be impossible to meet current demands for animal products with smaller farms. There is no such thing as humane slaughter. Slaughter is killing. Also, Animal agriculture is responsible for over half of all environmental destruction. The only solution is to stop eating them, or to at least eat so much less that it would be pointless to raise animals for food anyway. Visit