Saturday, March 14, 2009

Antibiotic use and our food, nytimes article, vet visits

A recent nytimes op-ed article about a small town doctor who noticed terrible rashes on his patients and then linked them to industrial hog farms on the outskirts of town was interesting to me.

here's the quote:

"So what’s going on here, and where do these antibiotic-resistant infections come from? Probably from the routine use — make that the insane overuse — of antibiotics in livestock feed. This is a system that may help breed virulent “superbugs” that pose a public health threat to us all. ".

There's a link to the full article at the bottom of this page.

For a small farm, veterinary visits are prohibitively expensive. If you've got a small pig that's not doing well you have two choices; either you treat it yourself, you kill it, or you let it die. A $150 pig isn't worth a $225 vet visit. It's a choice that I've had to make several times this year.

When you have laymen (and I include myself there) making treatment choices about animals, I often have no idea which treatment to use, or how much, or even if the treatment that I do decide on is efficacious. That's the reason that a veterinary goes to school for all those years.

So I've gone the complete other direction. I never treat any animal at any time. Two reasons: We use antibiotics too much now; and I have no trusted way to determine proper treatment. Yes, you can find information on the internet, but since anyone can write anything they'd like and post it, I cannot depend on it for life-and-death decisions. Students have even been failed for using wikipedia as a source.

When someone buys an animal from me, it's on that has never been medicated. No withdrawal periods, no wondering about doses, no issues with allergies or resistant strains. They're safe to eat at any time.

For lower cost animals, like chickens, this is pretty easy. It gets harder when you're talking about a sow that you've had for a couple of years. It gets even harder when you're talking about your beef critter, and I can't imagine the quandary when you're talking about your pet horse.

I also make this same choice about antibiotics in feed. I don't feed medicated chick starter, I don't feed medicated feed of any sort. It's precisely that sort of low-level antibiotic use that a major contributor to this issue.

It's a philosophical point, and I think an important one. It's time that we realize that antibiotics are a pollutant in our food supply that is causing side effects that are killing people now, and will only get worse.

Let me be clear -- holding this line means that I have to put down animals that I might otherwise save. That costs me money and heartache. But having looked at the alternative, I've decided that that's the way I'm going to go.

This isn't different from my previously stated viewpoint that animal welfare is top on my list. Part of my concern about welfare is human, and if livestock practices put humans at risk, my choice is pretty easy if I take a long view. Not so easy when I'm looking at the critter.

Ethics only count when it hurts. When I'm standing there with the gun and hating this I know I'm on safe moral grounds precisely because it does hurt me but I do it anyways, with no one watching.

you may have to register for free to read the following links.

nytimes article
Dr. Kristof's blog

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