30 December 2009

A Self-Interested Reason to Not Eat Meat

Here’s another self-interested reason to not eat meat: Drug-resistant bacteria are routinely found in beef, chicken, and pork sold in supermarkets. Drug-resistant infections are by no means rare. Twenty percent of people who get salmonella have a drug-resistant strain. To find out more of what the meat industry and pharmaceutical companies don't want you to know, read this Associated Press column by Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza.

Here are just a few facts drawn from the column:

  • Drug-resistant infections killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year—more than prostate and breast cancer combined.
  • 70% of the antibiotics used in the U.S. last year—28 million pounds—went to pigs, chickens, and cows, which in turn creates a perfect breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant super germs.
  • Many of these antibiotics are routinely added to the feed of healthy animals to promote rapid weight gain.
  • The FDA, the CDC, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have all declared drug-resistant diseases stemming from antibiotic use in animals a "serious emerging concern."
  • The problem is not new. In the 1970s, the FDA proposed a ban on penicillin and tetracycline in animal feed, but the proposal was defeated after criticism from interest groups.
  • In 2008, the FDA issued its second limit on the use of cephalosporins in cows, pigs, and chickens, citing the importance of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans. But the Bush Administration reversed that decision five days before it was going to take effect after receiving several hundred letters from drug companies and farm animal trade groups.
The Bottom Line: If history is any guide, you can't count on the federal government to do the right thing and ban the routine nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in farm-animal feed, but here are two things that you can do: First, nudge Congress in that direction. Contact your U.S. Representative and urge her/him to support Representative Louise M. Slaughter’s bill banning the routine use of antibiotics in animal feed. Second, and most importantly, refuse to support the meat industry’s unsafe practice of adding antibiotics to animal feed by refusing to purchase their products. Make a conscious choice to not eat meat. Protect your own health and the future effectiveness of antibiotics: Go vegetarian in 2010!