Antibiotics Overused in Chickens
Food Hazards in Animal Flesh and By-products from Vegan Health Articles

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From Hesh Goldstein, Health Talk Hawaii

[Ed. Note: Be sure to listen to Hesh's podcast that you can find here: Vegan/Animal Rights Radio Shows and Podcasts. And read other articles about the use/overuse of antibiotics in factory farming.]

In the typical chicken house tens of thousands of cramped and clucking fowl munch on antibiotics that should be used to cure human illness, not make chickens fatten faster.

Until recently, there was a storehouse of antibiotics that could handily fight even the nastiest of infectious diseases. But, the overuse of these ”miracle drugs”- in hospitals, consumer products, veterinary clinics, cattle feedlots and hog and chicken factories – is resulting in the spread of super bugs that doctors may be unable to cure.

Today, more than 8 billion chickens, cattle and hogs raised for the dinner table in America receive some type of antibiotic during their lifetime – not to cure disease, but to promote growth.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that the total yearly use of antibiotics in healthy livestock has climbed from 16 million pounds in the mid 1980’s to 25 million pounds today. About 11 million pounds of that are used in poultry feed, 10 million pounds in hog feed and 4 million pounds in cattle feed.

In contrast, only 3 million pounds of antibiotics are used in human medicine. That means that we are using 8 times the amount of antibiotics in healthy animals that we use to treat diseases in our children and ourselves.

Flesh producers rely on antibiotics, not just because they promote growth, but because of how they promote growth. The drugs’ fattening effects come mostly from bracing the chickens against the highly stressful conditions inside a chicken house. As a result, the birds reach slaughter weight on less feed. And lower feed costs mean higher company profits.

If you think chicken houses smell badly from outside, live dangerously and go inside. Particles of manure and feathers hover like a fog while the presence of ammonia stings the eyes. On the ground, a sea of chickens swirl as they seek a little space, decent air, and another snack. Stay in a chicken house for 10 minutes and you will feel like you need an antibiotic.

And therein lays the tradeoff.

The overuse of antibiotics in livestock production may mean that one day those drugs might not work when you need them to work for you. Doctors are beginning to do their part to combat the resistance problem. In the spring, the nation’s second largest medical association published prescription guidelines to reduce the use of antibiotics by 20 or 30 percent.

So, if doctors are tackling the overuse of antibiotics in human medicine, why don’t flesh producers curtail their unnecessary use in livestock? The answer is simple and obvious: $$$$$$$$ and more of it. After all, enough is never enough!

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