SuperBugs Not SuperDrugs
On Wednesday, October 7th, the Environmental Action Committee and SkidEats were host to a representative from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Natalie Salmon, as well as Mr. Alan and Mrs. Nancy Brown from Lewis-Waite Farm. Chipotle Mexican Grill, a fast-food chain known for its consistent use of organic products, provided complimentary catering.
The guests were here to talk to the student body about the very pressing issue of disease-causing bacteria’s growing antibiotic resistance, as well as the ways in which such resistance can be slowed down. In the United States, 70% of all antibiotics sold are used on farm animals. The practice of including antibiotics in industrial farm animals’ daily feed is part of the feed-efficiency business model: animals given a daily dose of antibiotics tend to grow slightly faster than those that are given the same amount of feed with no antibiotics. However, the animals grown in the industries that choose this practice are kept in squalid, tight spaces that negatively affect their health and growth rates.
The event screened a documentary entitled Resistance , emphasizing the very real implications of antibiotic resistant pathogens. Its heart-wrenching narrative of a teen boy’s battle with a life-threatening bacterial infection brought home the severity of this issue. Also in the documentary, a former surfer and kayaker spoke about his experience contracting antibiotic resistant Meningitis, merely from spending time in the ocean. The number of bacterial species dangerous to humans that are no longer responsive to any of the antibiotics available in the medical arsenal is increasing, and they can be found anywhere, not just in hospitals. The documentary went on to illustrate that the overuse of antibiotics for unnecessary purposes has greatly contributed to this phenomena. At the present, the FDA relies on voluntary measures by agricultural businesses to curtail their use of antibiotics.
Salmon , New Jersey PIRG Education Fund Campaign Coordinator, spoke about her current efforts to persuade Subway, the largest fast food chain in the world, to stop using products from animals that were grown on antibiotics.
“We recently helped put consumer pressure on McDonald’s to stop serving chicken raised on our life-saving medicines, and we could be on the cusp of an industry-wide change once Subway starts fresh,” said Salmon. “Restaurants can put enormous pressure on suppliers to stop overusing antibiotics. That’s why we’re calling on Subway, the world’s largest fast food chain, to make super subs, not super bugs.”
From the agricultural sector’s point of view, Alan and Nancy Brown discussed the ways in which their antibiotic-free animal raising procedures compared with their more industrialized counterparts. On Lewis-Waite Farm in Greenwich, NY, the Browns provide their cattle and pigs with pasture space to roam in and fresh river water to drink. They are free to live in family groups. The diet of the Lewis-Waite animals is antibiotic free, except when absolutely necessary, like in outbreaks of highly contagious diseases. In addition to being responsible growers, they are committed to being responsible consumers; they make sure that all the food they eat is not grown on antibiotics.
At the end of the documentary screening and discussion, students posed for pictures while they held up signs signaling their desire for Subway to divest from their unsustainably grown meat products.