Vegan Health ArticlesAntibiotics and Meat
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From  Michael Greger, MD

The emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria is an ever-increasing global threat. According to the World Health Organization's Director-General, the spread of these antibiotic resistant "super bugs" is literally threatening "to send the world back to a pre-antibiotic age." [1]

Farmed animals are raised in such intensive confinement and stress that literally the majority of antibiotics produced in the United States are fed to pigs, cows and chickens to prevent disease and promote growth. Farmers in the United States continue to feed animals 13 million pounds of medically important antibiotics every year to promote weight gain,[2] a use that was banned in Europe because of human health concerns[3] and continues to violate decade-old World Health Organization recommendations.[4]

The American Medical Association[5] and the American Public Health Association[6] are also both on record opposing the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in healthy farm animals.

Recently the congressional U.S. General Accounting Office released their report on the use of antibiotics in farmed animals. They found in their review that "Many studies have found that the use of antibiotics in animals poses significant risks for human health."[7] Notably they did not, however, recommend we follow Europe's example and ban the practice.

A ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters, the GAO explains, could result in a "reduction of profits" for the industry. Even a partial ban would "increase costs to producers, decrease production, and increase retail prices to consumers." The National Academy of Sciences estimates that a total ban on the widespread feeding of antibiotics to farmed animals would raise the price of poultry anywhere from 1 to 2 cents per pound and the price of pork or beef maybe even 3 to 6 cents a pound, costing the average meat-eating American consumer up to $9.72 a year. [8] Meanwhile, antibiotic resistant infections every year cost our society an estimated $30 billion[9] and, in the U.S. alone, kill 60,000 people.[10]


1 CNN 12 June 2000.

2 Union of Concerned Scientists. "Hogging It: Estimates of Antimicrobial Abuse in Livestock", January 2001.

3 BBC News 14 December 1998.


5 American Medical Association House of Delegates Annual Meeting. Resolution 508 - Antimicrobial Use and Resistance. 2001.

6 American Public Health Association. Policy Number 99081. 1999.


8 National Research Council, "Costs of Eliminating Subtherapeutic Use of Antibiotics," Chapter 7, in The Use of Drugs in Food Animals: Benefits and Risk, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1999, 179.

9 Senator Bill Frist in a hearing of the Subcommittee on Public Health to examine the problem of and potential solutions for the problem of antimicrobial resistance. February 1999.


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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.