FDA’s New Antibiotics Guidance Falls Short of Improving Welfare and Reducing Health Risks from Factory Farming

Broad Coalition of Animal Welfare Groups Say More Is Needed
December 19, 2013

WASHINGTON–The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s release of its long-awaited policy is drawing criticism from a group of leading animal welfare organizations, including The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), Farm Sanctuary, Animal Welfare Approved, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. While the policy has been touted by some as a step forward because the FDA now acknowledges antibiotics should not be used to make animals grow faster, the groups are objecting to the fact that under the rules, the FDA leaves it up to industry to voluntarily reduce the use of preventative antibiotics in animals that are often not sick, and fails to actually require any changes in the use of antibiotics.

Roughly 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are bought to make factory farmed animals grow faster and withstand stressful and unhealthy conditions. Meat producers raise animals in severely overcrowded conditions to produce the highest output possible, but to be able to do so they rely on the use of antibiotics. These drugs are administered at low levels in animal feed to reduce the chance for infection and to eliminate the need for animals to expend energy fighting off bacteria. With the use of these antibiotics, farmed animals exhibit faster growth and higher yields of meat, but suffer from cruel and intensive confinement. Producers are therefore relieved from providing animals with clean living conditions and room to live comfortably, instead relying on antibiotics to keep animals from getting as sick as they might otherwise as a result of these overcrowded and poor living conditions.

According to the animal welfare groups’ joint statement: “The FDA is both acknowledging there is a problem and shirking its responsibility to solve it. By allowing industry to choose for itself whether to feed farm animals daily drugs, the FDA is helping to prop up cruel factory farms where conditions are so bad animals will often die if they are not constantly dosed with antibiotics. These routinely used drugs are relied upon to ameliorate the effects of systemic and widespread welfare problems that industry itself has created.”

Some of the groups will be taking part in the regulatory process challenging the new guidance failing to protect animals in factory farms. They join several environmental, public health, and other organizations who have criticized the new rules as not going far enough.