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On April 7, the World Health Organization celebrates World Health Day. As such, it’s a good time to examine an issue that isn’t addressed enough—the significant public health risks of factory farming.
Intensively confining and overcrowding animals inside massive warehouses isn’t just bad for the animals. Factory farms are also potential flu factories, allowing viruses such as bird flu and swine flu to mutate and create virulent strains that are more deadly than ever. If these mutated viruses can jump to humans and spread just as virulently, then we could face a human pandemic.
To make matters worse, a whopping 80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to farmed animals—not only to keep them alive in such filthy conditions, but antibiotics are also used as growth-promotants. This overuse of drugs increases the possibility of developing antibiotic-resistance bacteria. And we’ve already been seeing increasingly common outbreaks of salmonella, E. coli, listeria, and MRSA (note that all these articles appeared just this week). So, what happens if the drugs we need to fight off these potentially-deadly bacteria stop working?
Just days ago, a district judge in New York ruled in favor of a coalition that sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), requiring the agency to follow-through on its review of antibiotics in animal feed that began more than 30 years ago. Up until this point, the government agency has been giving the industry a free pass by recommending a “voluntary” approach to reducing antibiotic use rather
than regulating the businesses as is the agency’s mandate.
Tom Philpott, food and agriculture writer for Mother Jones, noted that “there is no timetable on when the court-ordered hearings will take place, and that getting the FDA to initiate them in an election year—when both Big Meat and Big Pharma will be pumping money into campaigns—may be tricky.”
It’s time for the FDA to step up to the plate and do its job by regulating or, even better, banning the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics on factory farms. In the meantime, the best way to protect ourselves and public health—as well as the animals—is to choose healthier, more sustainable plant-based foods. Visit TryVeg.com to get started.