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ASPCA Co-Hosts Congressional Briefing on Dangers of Antibiotics for Livestock

Thursday, August 2, 2012 - 3:30pm
cow standing alone

Guest blog post from Suzanne McMillan, ASPCA Director of Farm Animal Welfare.

Last week, we helped organize a Capitol Hill briefing alerting legislators to the animal welfare dangers of misusing antibiotics—something commonly done on factory farms. While antibiotics are essential for treating sick animals, they’re often given on farms to compensate for overcrowded, filthy and stressful conditions. The horrible living conditions, coupled with the overuse of medications, create an added threat of the animals contracting a superbug that can’t be treated with antibiotics.

The briefing was hosted by Representatives Slaughter and Schakowsky, two supporters of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) bill, which aims to tackle this problem. It was gratifying to see these Congress members, who have shown interest in the human health implications of antibiotics for quite some time, showcase the animal welfare impacts, too.

Because the chicken and turkey industries, in particular are notorious for keeping birds in horrific conditions, where they live in their own waste on the floors of sheds packed with tens of thousands of birds, the ASPCA brought farmer Frank Reese to the panel to address the use of antibiotics in poultry farming. Reese raises chickens and turkeys at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, a farm that raises heritage (non-factory farm-bred) birds on pasture, allowing them to be true to their nature. Reese explained that, in contrast with factory farmers, he avoids subtherapeutic antibiotics by raising genetically healthy birds in a low-stress, spacious, pastured environment where they do not endure mutilations.

We will continue spreading the word about the dangers of raising animals by relying on subtherapeutic antibiotics, and we hope you will, too! Check whether your senators and Congress member are co-sponsoring PAMTA. If so, thank them; if not, urge them to!