Guest blog post from Suzanne McMillan, ASPCA Director of Farm Animal Welfare
As many of you know, animals raised on factory farms often receive antibiotics in order to remain healthy in an otherwise harmful environment as well as to promote growth. But there are dangers involved for both humans and animals! Antibiotic resistance in humans is a very big concern, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been under increasing pressure to do something about it.
Last week the FDA finally responded, releasing three documents addressing the use of antibiotics in livestock. While it’s great that the FDA is acknowledging a problem, these documents are extremely disappointing. Producers are simply asked to voluntarily curb their use of antibiotics, and pharmaceutical companies are asked to voluntarily stop labeling certain antibiotics as useful for livestock growth. All of this despite a federal court ruling just last month that ordered FDA to stop relying on voluntary programs to curb the use of certain antibiotics. Further, these programs focus only on using antibiotics for growth promotion—not on the similarly common practice of feeding animals antibiotics to prop up their already weak immune systems.
The coalition Keep Antibiotics Working, of which the ASPCA is a member, calls the FDA’s new plan an “inadequate response” and urges it to, at the very least, establish “an enforcement mechanism and timeline” for achieving the voluntary protocols it proposes.
Guest blog post from Suzanne McMillan, ASPCA Director of Farm Animal Welfare
On March 22, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must address the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals. The fact is, factory farms feed drugs like those in the penicillin family to animals even when they’re not sick. The drugs are used to speed up the animals’ growth and compensate for their unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, which are major breeding grounds for illnesses. Indeed, the same drugs that we take when we are sick are routinely fed to healthy animals!
The FDA Fails to Protect More than 30 years ago, the FDA first discovered the overuse of antibiotics creates drug-resistant bacteria that can spread to humans and cause hard-to-treat illnesses. So far, the FDA has failed to follow through on its findings. This new ruling will now require the FDA to withdraw its existing approvals for routinely using penicillins and tetracyclines on farm animals unless the farming industry provides evidence that their use does not threaten human health.
Did You Know…? Almost 80% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are fed to food animals. In addition to its impact on animal welfare, the misuse of antibiotics also affects our own lives. If we want to keep antibiotics working for us, we must keep industrial farms from abusing them. The ASPCA applauds this recent court decision—not only for human health, but also in hopes that it will help ensure cleaner, more humane living conditions for animals on farms.
Americans overwhelmingly believe that food from our farms should be safe to eat and that farm animals should not be abused for its production. So it is disturbing that legislators in a number of states throughout the country are considering—and passing—legislation known as “Ag-Gag” bills that would cripple the ability of investigators to expose animal abuse and food safety concerns. Many Ag-Gag bills criminalize taking photos or videos on farms to expose problems such as animal cruelty, environmental and labor violations, and other illegal or unethical behavior. Simply put, Ag-Gag legislation poses a danger to the American public as well as to animals.
Four years ago, undercover video led to the largest beef recall in U.S. history. The video, taken at Hallmark Meat Packing Co. in Chino, California, revealed workers at the slaughter plant kicking sick cows, ramming cows with the blades of a forklift, and torturing crippled cows to force them to walk to slaughter. In that case, the slaughterhouse that was shut down was also the second largest beef supplier to the National School Lunch Program, so these irresponsible and inhumane acts endangered the health of scores of American schoolchildren.
Legislators bent on suppressing exposés through the passage of Ag-Gag legislation are not only harming animals, but putting all of us—including our children—in jeopardy by preventing our access to critical information about our food supply. They also threaten our constitutional rights by stifling dissemination of information and chipping away at our First Amendment protections.
It’s ironic when you think about it. The individuals targeted by Ag-Gag laws are not the criminals who are beating or stabbing animals (as seen on some undercover videos). Instead, the bills would punish the whistleblowers, the people who dare to lift the veil on these oft-hidden cruelties. The language in the bills varies somewhat state to state, but in many cases the penalties for exposing cruelty may be harsher than those for the actual commission of cruelty. In a number of states the proposed legislation would prevent documenting not only the abuse of farm animals, but also could prohibit investigations of puppy mills and dog racing.
Lawmakers who support Ag-Gag bills do so because they are accommodating the agribusiness lobby, not because it is in the interest of their constituents. In fact, a recent national poll by Lake Research Partners found that 71% of Americans support undercover investigative efforts to expose farm animal abuse on industrial farms.
According to the Lake Research poll, opposition to Ag-Gag legislation is steadfast across demographic, geographic and partisan lines. A majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents agree that banning undercover investigations is wrong. Likewise, a majority of respondents in all regions (Northeast, Midwest, South and West) oppose the criminalization of undercover investigations at farms. No matter the demographics, Americans don’t want to be deemed criminals for exposing wrongdoing.
Twenty-seven national organizations and experts—from animal welfare groups to civil liberties, public health and workers’ rights associations—have united to oppose Ag-Gag bills. These groups, including the ASPCA, have signed a letter stating, in part:
. . . These bills represent a wholesale assault on many fundamental values shared by all people across the United States. Not only would these bills perpetuate animal abuse on industrial farms, they would also threaten workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply. We call on state legislators around the nation to drop or vote against these dangerous and un-American efforts.
Ag-Gag laws are an affront to many values Americans hold dear. If you live in Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee or New York, you should be especially concerned since Ag-Gag laws are now pending in your state legislatures. Please contact your legislatorsto let them know that Ag-Gag laws are dangerous for people and animals.
Most Americans strongly oppose the use of battery cages, gestation crates and veal crates to cruelly confine animals on factory farms—and so does the ASPCA. We are proud to announce that we will be joining a growing list of animal welfare, family farming, food safety and environmental groups in support of the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act to end the extreme confinement of egg-laying hens in Washington.
Nearly six million egg-laying hens in the state of Washington are forced to spend their entire lives crammed in small wire cages with less space than a sheet of paper to live. If passed, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act would require that egg-laying hens have enough room to turn around and extend their wings. The measure would also make the sale of eggs from battery cage facilities illegal.
“Intensive confinement of factory farm animals is not only inhumane, but also harmful to public health and the environment,” says Matt Bershadker, Senior Vice President of Anti-Cruelty at the ASPCA. “We hope that efforts such as the one in Washington will continue to spread across the country, and that the cruel practices of factory farms will be a thing of the past.”
If approved by voters, the measure will take effect in 2018, giving producers more than six years to transition to more humane housing systems.
Take Action! You can make a difference in the lives of millions of battery hens by supporting the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act in any way you can. If you're a Washington resident, please visit www.humanewa.com for more ways you can get involved and help transform your state into a leader in humane farming.
On June 1, the ASPCA joined a coalition of animal welfare advocates, veterinarians, family farmers and environmental organizations in support of a citizen-backed ballot initiative to help prevent cruel factory farming practices in the state of Ohio. The coalition, Ohioans for Humane Farms, is asking the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to implement minimum care standards, including the humane euthanasia of sick and injured animals, a prohibition of cruel confinement practices, and the prevention of sick and injured animals from entering the food supply. Similar laws have already been enacted in Michigan, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine and Oregon.