Badger Herald: City resolution targets antibiotic use on factory farms

by CHANTAL COWIE · April 14, 2014

A mother raised concerns about the excessive use of antibiotics in factory farms at a town hall forum last week after her son was hospitalized because of an infection that was resistant to several different types of antibiotics.

Kate McCoy expressed her worry that the next time her son gets an infection, there might not be any antibiotics that are able to treat it.

Madison recently became one of six cities to stand behind a resolution entitled the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act, which passed unanimously through City Council and calls for an end to the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms.

Currently, 80 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are used for raising livestock to make them grow faster and compensate for the poor living conditions the animals are subjected to, Kathryn Lee, spokesperson at Food and Water Watch, said.

This non-therapeutic use of antibiotics provides a perfect breeding ground for new strains of bacteria that are resistant to these antibiotics, Lee said.

The antibiotic-resistant bacteria can get into the environment and food supplies and put communities at risk whether individuals eat meat or not and regardless of where they live, Lee said.

Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said the excessive use of antibiotics causes spread of disease among livestock.

Resnick said the main motivating factor for the use of antibiotics in raising livestock is economic. The argument is that forgoing this method adds additional costs to meat production, he said.

“Any type of cost must be well-balanced with the safety and well-being of the food that we eat,” Resnick said.

Every year, 2 million Americans contract untreatable antibiotic resistant infections and 23,000 people die from these infections each year, Lee said.

Currently many progressive communities are joining the call to action to make sure Congress takes a critical look at this issue, Lee said. She said Food and Water Watch has been successful in carrying out its mission of working with community members and empowering them to engage their elected officials on this issue.

The goal is to pass 50 resolutions this year to make a significant impact on the national level, Lee said.

Another end goal for this resolution is to get the support of Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, behind the issue, Resnick said.

“For a Congress that has been essentially the most dormant and ineffective body over the last session, this is one way that the community can tell the congressional leaders that they would like them to focus on a problem,” Resnick said.

Lee said Madison is a good city to have on board for the resolution because there are many people passionate about food issues. She said the city has a lot of influence on getting Baldwin, who has been responsive to the opinions of the people of Madison, to sign onto the act.