I’ve written several times about antibiotics and the importance for every Prepper to have a stock of these in their medical supplies. As a doctor, I’ve focused on them as tools to treat humans without paying a great deal of attention to their use in animals. Well, for years there has been widespread use of these drugs to treat livestock. It’s put in their food and water, sometimes on a daily basis.
The animals that are fed this are occasionally actually sick and need treatment. Most of the time, however, antibiotics are given to prevent disease in crowded conditions or, amazingly, because animals given antibiotics are thought to grow faster and get to market sooner. I think that this is pretty awful just as it is, but there’s also a side-effect to this practice: It’s caused the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is now making many infections in HUMANS harder to treat.
Some human infections now resist many antibiotics; the bugs include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Salmonella, Shigella, and various others. More and more of these infections aren’t going away with the old standard drugs.
Earlier this month, stores and consumers across the country discarded 36 million pounds of ground turkey because more than 100 people became sick from salmonella, even though all these turkeys were regularly fed antibiotics. So, how can animals given antibiotics actually be MORE prone to infections?
Antibiotics in Livestock
Most antibiotics are given to livestock at low doses to bulk up the animals, speeding them to market. Well, this is bad, because when you under-treat a bug with an antibiotic, it rarely kills them, but it sure can desensitize them to the medicine. As the old saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. The result? Antibiotic resistance. When we eat meat from animals routinely given antibiotics, if there’s a bug that survived to contaminate that meat, we can get sick and, worse, not be cured by normal treatment.
Many of those giving antibiotics to livestock say there is no proof to antibiotic resistance causing these outbreaks of contaminated meat. To me, this sounds just like big tobacco disputed cancer and cigarettes. This connection, however, is no surprise to us doctors, who have had to deal with antibiotic resistance for quite a while now.
Antibiotics have been around for more than 70 years, and they’ve saved a lot of lives. You’ve heard me talk about all sorts of strategies to make sure you get some in your medical kits in the case of a collapse. They’re way up there in terms of man’s greatest medical advances, but using them when other remedies will work just as well is diluting their effectiveness. Blame has long been directed at the widespread use of antibiotics within medicine, and I’m the first to agree that antibiotics have been over-utilized by doctors, sometimes just because their patients demanded it. I can’t tell how many times people came to me sure that antibiotics would be their cure-all. That’s changing, though.
The medical profession is now limiting the antibiotic prescriptions they write in an effort to decrease the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. What about agriculture, however? Did you know that 80 percent of the nation’s antibiotics go to livestock? The Food and Drug Administration, in the 1950s, allowed antibiotics for this purpose in livestock, and it’s still a big part of the industry today.
Despite the simple logic at play here, there are those working for big agribusiness and big pharma who disagree. One of their representatives, from an organization called the Animal Health Institute, argued that using the drug in the feed was not a problem. “We don’t really think that the antibiotics given to animals in feed are big contributors to the problems in human medicine,” He added that removing antibiotics would “increase production costs.”
Even though there’s a controversy about this issue here, other countries including the entire European Union have banned the use of antibiotics for livestock growth promotion. Denmark, for example, hasn’t allowed antibiotics in pork for the last 15 years. even a U.S. study found that stopping the use of antibiotics resulted in reduction of resistant strains of bacteria.
Physicians are starting to organize in their push for new federal health legislation. More than 1,000 M.D. signatures have been collected for the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, This bill reserves the use of antibiotics in livestock for those animals that are genuinely sick. Endorsed by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, this bill has died in committee the last 2 sessions. Whether it will ever see the light of day, only time will tell.
Official statment from the AMA: “Antibiotics are one of the most useful and important medical advances in recent history. Their effectiveness, however, is being compromised by bacterial resistance, arising in part from excessive use of antibiotics in animal agriculture,”
Meanwhile, the FDA put out a “Guidance on the Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food Producing Animals”. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has indicated its concern regarding the same. Recently, a U.S.D.A. contractor concluded that there is a strong link between rising cases of resistant infections and antibiotic use on factory farms. As often happens with these things, the report vanished right after it was posted.
The lesson to learn? Make sure you buy organic whenever you buy meat. If Big Agribusiness sees less people buying their antibiotic-laden meat, they might reconsider their methods. Also, consider natural remedies like garlic, honey or colloidal silver as first line options of treatment. Reserve your limited antibiotic supplies to those infections that natural medicine fail to cure.