I always look forward to attending events organized by The Atlantic. They are informative, smart, and provide a balanced view of the topic presented.
On March 16, 2016, a sold-out forum at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., addressed a timely topic: the benefits and challenges of using antibiotics. The responsible use of antibiotics is an important discussion at a time when recently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided new guidance on their usage in food-producing animals. The bonus for this event is that my favorite moderator, Steve Clemons, was present for all sessions.
The expert speakers came from various fields, such as the FDA, physician and veterinary organizations, farmers, think tanks and industry leaders. Here are three quotes that made an impression:
“We need to increase health literacy so people know what a virus, bacterium, and antibiotics are.”
—Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association
Antibiotic stewardship is “the commitment to always use antibiotics appropriately and safely—only when they are needed and to treat disease.” Experts in public health and animal agriculture agree that antibiotic stewardship educational initiatives are a key path forward to reducing the threat of resistance.
“There will come a time when bad things happen to good animals. We have a moral and ethical duty to treat sick animals.”
—Christine Daugherty, Vice President of Sustainable Food Production, Tyson Foods
We cannot forget that animals used in food production get sick also. As Ms. Daugherty notes, they should be able to live as free from pain and sickness as possible. Let alone, healthy animals provide a safe food supply.
“I would have saved all of my pigs if I would have treated them preventatively. One time I lost 50 percent of my pigs. I could have saved all of them if I would have followed my normal protocol and treated them preventively.”
—Colby Ferguson, Hog Farmer; Government Relations Director, Maryland Farm Bureau
Disease prevention is critical for animal health. Under the new FDA rules, farmers may administer antibiotics for therapeutic purposes only under veterinary oversight.
Overall it was a great event with diverse expert views and one cohesive message. We need more science education to enhance proper understanding of antibiotics usage, while at the same time sustaining ethical treatment of animals.