This Cow Wants to Kill You: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Spreading
In news you probably ignored—which means the lives of all your loved ones are now in grave danger—scientists in Britain and Denmark recently discovered a link between antibiotics used in animal feed and new strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
You may have heard this part already. They’ve been doing a little more testing in Europe recently, after horse meat showed up in numerous products, such as products labeled “beef lasagna.”
(Secret ingredient: Secretariat.)
In any case, you are probably asking yourselves right now, as you sit down for a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner: “Is it safe to eat this sausage or hamburger?”
Who knows?! You’ll find out. Isn’t that an appetizing thought?
We could explain the science of this sordid tale. But let’s be honest. You are probably too busy to take time out of your day to read a long story involving complex science terminology—and a certain author is too slothful to offer any in-depth analysis.
Anyway, who cares about that? What matters is that cows are trying to kill you.
Why weren’t we warned about these bovine assassins? Not to mention killer flies? Well, do the research for god sakes, people! Four years ago we were warned when another study found that flies were transferring drug-resistant bacteria to humans.
How you may ask? You don’t really want to know.
You do? Well, then, let scientists bear the bad news:
“Flies are well-known vectors of disease and have been implicated in the spread of various viral and bacterial infections affecting humans, including enteric fever, cholera, salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis and shigellosis…”
… And, blah, blah, blah. Okay, that was Dr. Jay Graham, speaking. His report explains that he and other scientists collected chicken poop and flies and compared the genes of the bacteria…oh, hell…the key takeaway is this:
“Our study found similarities in the antibiotic-resistant bacteria in both the flies and poultry litter we sampled. The evidence is another example of the risks associated with the inadequate treatment of animal wastes.”
How is this happening—right under our noses—right there on our dinner plates? Damn! Get away from here you flies.
Let’s keep it simple. Old McDonald has some chickens, “with a cluck, cluck, here…” He feeds the chickens, “with a cluck, cluck, there…” low levels of antibiotics so they don’t get sick, or if they do, they feel better. Sometimes these antibiotics also make the chickens grow faster. (Feel free to bust out with an “E-I-E-I-O” whenever the mood strikes you.) So Old McDonald makes more money and buys Mrs. Old McDonald a shiny new tractor.
Meanwhile, the chickens (and cows, etc.) take dumps in the barnyard.
Unfortunately, the animals have been fed so many antibiotics that various forms of bacteria—forms with names much too long to list here—have developed resistance to antibiotics humans also use to protect themselves from killer infections.
In other words: you eat meat from the cow Old McDonald sold to the slaughterhouse and the cow gets his revenge by trying to kill you. Or: the fly lands in the pile of chicken crap and walks around for a while and gets his tennis shoes all dirty and disgusting, and then flies over to where you are having your pancakes.
You are probably now asking yourself, “What can we do to protect our loved ones and ourselves from dangerous farmyard denizens and even insect aerial attacks?”
The U. S. government, in the guise of the Food and Drug Administration might step in, and in a way they have tried. But you know what the Tea Party types like to say: Government is always the problem, never the solution. Free enterprise and antibiotic resistant bacteria and profits all the way!
And lobbyists for big farmers’ groups and drug manufacturers all agree. If you limit antibiotic use on the farm, what you really want to do is unplug Granny Chicken. So, what’s a politician supposed to do? Turn down a fat campaign contribution?
According to David A. Kessler, writing in the New York Times today, there’s lots of money to be made here, and where money is involved, maybe public safety will come…how might one say this…last.
Kessler notes that drug manufacturers sold 30,000,000 pounds of antibiotics for livestock last year alone. That represents 80% of their business.
“We have more than enough scientific evidence to justify curbing the rampant use of antibiotics for livestock, yet the food and drug industries are not only fighting proposed legislation to reduce these practices, they also oppose collecting the data. Unfortunately, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, as well as the F.D.A., is aiding and abetting them.”
Well, what are you going to do? That’s how it goes in Congress these days. Nothing ever gets done and our elected officials have an approval rating about as low as the approval rating we give to drug-resistant bacteria.
Just because there are growing signs of significant dangers from antibiotic resistant bacteria coming in from around the world—you might think drug companies and giant agribusinesses should be more careful and take a hit to the bottom line if necessary.
Ah…you’d be dreaming.