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January 17, 2014 / V A Nichols

Overuse of antibiotics allows animal cruelty


Veterinary Association Supports Meat and Dairy Producers Drugging Confined Farmed Animals

Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on January 17, 2014


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is lobbying for continued use of antibiotics on farmed animals who are not yet sick. The mass dosing of intensely-confined animals on factory farms with antibiotics is linked with the growth of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as “superbugs.” But this overuse of antibiotics also allows animal cruelty—cramming animals into dark, filthy, crowded spaces on factory farms—to continue. This is why ALDF has filed a petition with the USDA to clarify the labeling on meat and poultry products that have been linked with this rampant abuse of antibiotics. And it is why we need organizations like the AVMA to be concerned with preventing animal suffering, not just maintaining animal health.

In 2011, the AVMA made a laudable change to their veterinarian’s oath with just four little words:

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

AVMA recognized that veterinarians should prioritize animal welfare, not just animal health. Evidently, however, AVMA’s goal of preventing animal suffering does not extend to intensely-confined farmed animals.

For instance, AVMA supports giving “preventative” antibiotics to farmed animals. Producers raise animals in severely overcrowded conditions to produce the highest amount of meat, dairy, and eggs possible. Such confinement requires the systematic use of antibiotics to prevent sickness. These drugs are administered at low levels in animal feed, which allows the animals to avoid contagion and grow faster despite their unhealthy environments.

Animals are not the only ones harmed by this system of intense confinement. Significant evidence suggests extensive use of antibiotics in animals is detrimental to public health. After avoiding its own evidence for 35 years, even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally admitted so last month—a decision that ALDF and other groups have decried as inadequate. Despite this evidence, the AVMA is actively lobbying for continued use of antibiotics. Ongoing use of these drugs means continued confinement and animal suffering.

The Vice Chair of AVMA’s Council on Biological and Therapeutic Agents and veterinarian professor Dr. Scott Hurd has stated, “[d]rug companies are moving out of the animal health business due to the silly ideas [about antibiotic resistance]. Most of the antibiotics used on-farm are because sick and dying animals need medicine, not so the farmer can make a quick buck.” What Hurd overlooks is that animals are sick and dying because of their intense confinement, the direct cause of their suffering.

If the AVMA were serious about preventing animal suffering, it would oppose the extensive use of antibiotics for farmed animals. Reducing the systematic use of antibiotics in animal feed would force meat producers to provide spacious and healthy environments for their animals, the surest way to increase animal health and welfare on factory farms.


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