With federal action unlikely, it’s up to the states to stop the overuse of our life-saving medicines on factory farms.

Livestock producers are routinely giving antibiotics to animals to make them grow faster or help them survive crowded, stressful and unsanitary conditions. Overusing these drugs—in humans or animals—breeds bacteria resistant to the antibiotics, threatening the future effectiveness of these medicines, and putting our health at risk. Every year, at least 2 million people get sick, and 23,000 die from antibiotic-resistant infections.

Given the stakes, we shouldn’t allow even one large-scale farming operation to overuse antibiotics in this way. And yet approximately 70 percent of medically important antibiotics sold in the U.S. are intended for use in livestock and poultry.

Antibiotics Program Director Matt Wellington (center) and U.S. PIRG field staff educated the public and urged delegates to pass a resolution to address antibiotic resistance at the United Nations General Assembly.
Austin Donohue

State Action

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority to regulate how antibiotics should be used. But so far the proposed rules out of Washington, D.C., have been far too weak when it comes to the agricultural uses of our life-saving medicines. And given the current administration’s push to reduce regulations, we’re not optimistic that new rules will be coming anytime soon. Given the stakes, we can’t afford to wait.

Luckily, we don't have to. Here in Maryland, after a long campaign, we successfully passed landmark legislation that bans the routine use of medically important antibiotics on farms that operate here. This legislation serves as an important model for other states, so our advocates are working with our national network to push seven other states to follow suit. Together, we're working to end the overuse of antibiotics everywhere from Washington to Massachusetts. This will not only shift a significant amount of meat production in the United States away from the misuse of our life-saving medicines, but it will put increased pressure on the FDA and other federal decision-makers to pass strong national rules to protect public health. Though our state has already laid the groundwork, it's critical that we support efforts to reduce antibiotic misuse nationwide, because superbugs don't respect state borders.

Our Strategy

Our national network is in a unique position to lead this effort. Our researchers, advocates and staff in 25 states are committed to protecting public health. We have a record of real results, including helping to pass bills in California and Maryland, and we helped use market-based pressure to get McDonald’s, Subway and KFC to phase medically important antibiotics out of their meat supply chains, starting with chicken.

We know how to bring together people from all political perspectives and all walks of life, including more than 40,000 medical professionals who signed on in support of our efforts to Save Our Antibiotics.

Organizing Medical Professionals

Already, opposition to state-level legislation is mounting. Some companies are running misleading TV ads, while others are sending industry lobbyists to persuade state and local decision-makers that these changes are unnecessary, will be too hard, or will cost too much.

To make sure our state leaders understand the grave public health consequences of antibiotic resistance, we created the Health Professional Action Network. Health professionals are on the front lines of this problem, seeing patients with infections that were once easily treatable turn into dangerous and sometimes deadly illnesses.

That’s why more than 40,000 of them have signed onto our efforts to stop the overuse of antibiotics. We have a group of physicians and health experts who are trained and ready to be our voice in the media, in state capitols, and wherever we need to counter misleading claims or advocate for new solutions.

Take Action
Join The Campaign

The choice is clear: We shouldn’t allow our corporate neighbors to misuse life-saving medicines just to make burgers a little cheaper or chickens a little fatter. Sign up now to find out how you can get leaders in our state and around the country to stop the overuse of antibiotics.

Top photo: branislavpudar / Shutterstock.com