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Add some sense, sensibility to livestock antibiotic debate (commentary)

Add some sense, sensibility to livestock antibiotic debate (commentary)

INGRID Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), once wrote, "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."

So, following that logic backwards leads me to say that PETA and other groups demanding an end to, or a serious curtailing of, the use of antibiotics in animals are guilty of promoting serious animal abuse. We will leave the issue of child neglect to the courts.

The professed direction of this often poorly aimed and scientifically empty movement is to save humanity by severely reducing the use of antibiotics for cattle, hogs, chickens — the entire pantheon of agricultural animals.

The fear is that overuse of livestock antibiotics will create a fearsome army of super bugs that will threaten the lives of our children and maybe even end civilization as we know it today.

The truth is that most antibiotics used in the feedyard are approved for animal use only. If super bugs are created by their overuse, we might be looking at epidemics among our bovine herds, not among our human herds.

There also seems to be a curious lack of vigilance among these same groups when it comes to overuse of antibiotics prescribed by small-animal vets, general practitioners, obstetricians, proctologists, pediatricians, hospitals — you get the drift.

Let's not forget that the much-feared super bug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus originated in hospitals for humans, not in hog barns.

So, is it really okay to give a life-saving antibiotic to kittens and puppies or to ailing humans but not to inoculate a calf?

If Newkirk was an honest woman, she would be pitching a screaming fit about that twisted line of logic.

Allowing a sick farm animal to suffer and die when a cure is at hand should be against everything PETA stands for, but I suspect that Newkirk has been off her meds for quite a while, and no one in her cloistered group is brave enough to suggest a return to her neighborhood pharmacy.

To broaden this debate and add some important context, just recently, Medical Daily suggested that pediatricians need to go "back to school" to learn the proper use of antibiotics.

The article reported, "The rapid emergence of microbial drug resistance has been partially blamed on doctors relying too heavily on 'broad-spectrum' antibiotics that target a wide range of bacteria in cases when more specific 'narrow-spectrum' antibiotics are needed. Another deleterious, but common, practice involves prescribing antibiotics when people are infected with viruses, which will not respond to the treatment."

Read more about the report at www.medicaldaily.com/articles/16422/20130611/broad-spectrum-antibiotics-pediatricians-study-training-programs-children-antibiotic-overuse-antibiotic-resistance.htm#IKfSrSuA1XVOCehw.99.

So, here's the intelligent compromise: Let's do our part by taking a long look at subtherapeutic antibiotic use; there are other, better ways to improve livestock growth, and those drugs might instead be better used to fight infection.

Leave Baxter Black and other large-animal vets alone to ply their trade and prescribe antibiotics as they deem necessary by years of college training and "hands-on" experience.

People doctors can also do their part by being a bit more judicious about their prescription of antibiotics for use by the humans under their care.

*Chuck Jolley is president of Jolley & Associates, a marketing and public relations firm that concentrates on the food industry.

Volume:85 Issue:25

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