Last week, we told you about Contained Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and how the routine administering of antibiotics to the animals has dangerous consequences for us.
When farm animals are administered antibiotics, only about 25% are absorbed by the animals. Thus, when they come to us on our plates, they’re loaded up with antibiotics and we’re happily chowing down on them and ingesting those same things (you are what you eat, remember?).
It’s easy to think that if you avoid meat or animal products, you’re avoiding the dangers we’ve discussed so far. Unfortunately, vegetarians and vegans will want to consider that the remaining 75% of antibiotics administered on CAFOs are not fully digested, pass through the animals, and enter the environment where they can encounter new bacteria and create even more resistant strains. As these new, stronger bacteria leech into the surface and groundwater, they make their way to us via produce that has been irrigated with the contaminated water. Therefore vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike need to be concerned about CAFOs’ heavy use of antibiotics.
So, we’re being over-prescribed antibiotics, we’re over-using anti-bacterial products, and much of our meat and produce is contaminated with even more antibiotics. The result? Untreatable bacterial infections among the human population are on the rise as seen in the so-called super gonorrhea or in drug-hesitant staph, and, in 2013, the CDC reported that 2 million people were infected with drug resistant bacteria and it resulted in at least 23,000 deaths.
Wait! Stop crying! It’s not all doom and gloom! We promise we have good news. Here, take a look: Organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are heavyweights who’ve begun advocating for limiting the use of antibiotics across the board in order to push back against antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Such heavyweights can move kind of slowly though. How can we, the little guys, help in this battle? The first and easiest step is to cut back on the amount of meat you’re eating. CAFOs arose as a way to meet the demand for animal products (there simply isn’t enough land for the number of animals we consume daily to graze freely) so cutting back on that demand will cut back on the need for CAFOs. Additionally, purchase beef, pork, chicken and eggs that have been raised using organic methods of farming and that have been either grass-fed or pastured.
Contacting your state representatives to tell them that you are worried about CAFOs and their impact is another step you can take. If enough people make these changes and take these steps, we can be our own heavyweight force for change.
Keep up the good fight and remember that antibiotics should be used to treat bacterial infections and not to treat your dinner!