Should antibiotic use be banned in farm animals destined for slaughter and consumption by humans?  Why or why not?Should antibiotic use be banned in farm animals destined for slaughter and...

Should antibiotic use be banned in farm animals destined for slaughter and consumption by humans?  Why or why not?

Should antibiotic use be banned in farm animals destined for slaughter and consumption by humans?  Why or why not?

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Depending upon who you talk to, you may get differing opinions. Those who use antibiotics on their animals would prefer to continue to do so in an effort to keep their livestock healthy and/or to enhance growth.

However, research shows that antibiotics fed to animals stay in their bodies long after they have been slaughtered, and are still there when bought by the consumer and placed on the dinner table. These antibiotics have worrisome effects on humans.

As with any antibiotic use in animals or people, there is a fear that too much will produce bacteria that are more resistant to the effects of antibiotics (such as E. coli and Salmonella bacteria that cause food poisoning), so that when someone is very ill, the medicines used may not work, or work as well as needed. With dangerous illnesses or infections, this is a frightening side-effect of overusing drugs.

For some time there has been a movement afoot to hinder the use of any antibiotics in animals bred for human consumption that might be used to treat infections in humans, so that the drugs remain effective in producing a positive response in the body's fight to overcome illness.

Consumer concerns have had an effect on how some meat producers handle their animals. Today you can buy eggs and chicken raised without antibiotics, as well as milk. Other meat producers are following suit (though not all meat producers do so), and there is more pressure on the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to take a more active role in keeping food safe, especially for our children.

As recently as Sept. 14, the following information was printed in a New York Times article:

Now, after decades of debate, the Food and Drug Administration appears poised to issue its strongest guidelines on animal antibiotics yet, intended to reduce what it calls a clear risk to human health. The guidelines, which are voluntary and will not have the binding force of regulations, would end farm uses of the drugs simply to promote faster animal growth and call for tighter oversight by veterinarians.

It appears that the concerns of Americans everywhere are being heard.  It is, at least, a start.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not necessarily believe that the use of antibiotics in the cattle industry should be banned outright, but it should be much more strongly regulated.  The overuse of such antibiotics is actually causing some superstrains of cattle diseases to emerge (just as overuse of such drugs in humans is doing the same thing) which threatens the safety and reliability of our beef supply over the long term.

These drugs are often given automatically to all cows, whether they are needed or not, and are also much more heavily used in feed lots, where the animals live in large herds and close proximity.  To avoid disease spreading quickly through herds, some owners simply inject all cattle with such drugs regardless of whether they have infections.  This increases the rate at which new, drug-resistant strains of disease appear.

This means such antibiotics make it into our food supply and are ingested by humans, which some research is showing is none too healthy.

While antibiotics certainly have some positive benefits in our beef supply, their sale and use must, in my opinion, be more strictly regulated.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Healthy animals means healthier and better food for people.  I understand that some are concerned with antibiotics where they may have allergies, etc.  In these cases, perhaps the cattle and meat from those cattle should be labeled with the antibiotics which may still be in the food.  Not to mention, the more we are exposed to antibiotics, the less effective they are when we really need them (viruses, etc. become immune and don't react to the drug as expected).  This is job security for someone out there...

As we become more global, food will be shipped all over the world and could end up on another continent entirely.  Unless you're going to grow your own food which includes cattle, chickens, pigs, etc. you can not guarantee that some foreign substance isn't in the meat or some pesticide isn't on the veggies and fruit. 


clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before we go banning the use of antibiotics, we need to do some serious regulating of CAFO's.  It is bad enough that animals that were created to eat grass are being fed corn, among the numerous other horrific conditions at most of America's "friendly farms."

I'm certainly not in favor of banning antibiotics, especially if it means risking more ecoli entering our food source.  I am in favor of supporting local farmers (not necessarily commercial "organic" farms) and boycotting fast food.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with #3 - regulation is the key here, as the dangers of unregulated use with cattle are very scary to think about. I think there is a real push for profit against wise use of such medicine, which although might help farmers to up their profit margins, has wide-ranging implications, some of them negative, as the post above exemplifies. A big reason for stricter regulation is the lack of research conducted into the effects of these medicines entering the human food chain... a big worry.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here's the thing: no one wants sick animals which may eventually end up as meat on our tables.  We also don't want any more exposure to antibiotics than we already have.  Soon, the effects of all medicines will be negated as we build up a collective resistance to them.  So the key is to find a balance.  Everyone has said we need regulations, and I suppose that's the practical solution; I just wish I had a little more faith in the government in these kinds of things.  

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous posters have done a good job of discussing the issue, but I wonder about the use of antibiotics in consumer meats. Maybe someone has already addressed this, and I overlooked it. However, does this use of antibiotics affect the increasing immunity to antibiotics among humans? 

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that it should probably not be completely banned but should be more strictly regulated.I am certain there are plenty of studies out there that can support either view.

epollock | Student

I am not sure if all of the evidence is in in how drugs given to animals can end up in the food supply and in what concentrations to be detrimental to people. If drugs are harmless and can be killed by heating to say 180 degrees, like most bacteria, then it is possible that there is nothing to worry about.