Pigs and “superbugs”

In The New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof writes about the practice of giving pigs antibiotics to prevent diseases even when they are not sick

More antibiotics were fed to animals in North Carolina alone than were administered to the nation’s entire human population.

And if that’s true of North Carolina’s hogs, it’s true of Iowa’s hogs, simply because we have more. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to pathogens that are immune to our antibiotics; more diseases we can’t fight or cure. So-called superbugs.

Really, it’s the problem of cheap meat. It’s cheaper to pack pigs (and cows and chickens and …) into small spaces, load them up with drugs and feed them the waste products of our industrial food system than it is to care for them in some sort of humane way.

The production of (and demand for) cheap meat creates more problems than it solves. We consume more meat, causing rising cholesterol and obesity in the human population. We end up with a food system — a system so big that it can’t be properly overseen — that fosters the sale of diseased animals as food. It creates environmental pollution. It encourages the overuse of fossil fuels for farm chemicals (to feed the animals) and for transportation (to later ship them, living and dead).

The creation of superbugs is just another reason to reform our meat industry.

(Thanks to Sam for the quote)