Hat tip to Emily Chamelin Hickman for leading the charge.
Sheep work has changed my mind about a lot of things, including antibiotics. I have sheared too many animals that were very sick, and very much in need of antibiotics like those my doctor might prescribe for an infection (the same antibiotics that are available — and cheap — over the counter in many other places I’ve traveled). I found the livestock suffering I have witnessed nearly unbearable.
As a result, I could never be “against” antibiotics, and I do what I technically should not: I administer them. As a shearer, it’s often convenient for me to do so but, more importantly, I am physically capable of doing so, safely, in a way that may no longer be possible for my more elderly customers.
The FDA wants to make all antibiotics prescription only. This shows, once again, that regulators who do not work with animals simply do not understand the many ways in which this is a terrible idea. It is cruel legislation designed to make the public feel good about “less antibiotic use,” while actually increasing the suffering of all livestock. Those of us who actually work with livestock KNOW that antibiotic withholding times are followed and enforced.
Further, I believe the FDA feels a-okay about making this move BECAUSE it disproportionately affects small farmers, per usual. The confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), of course, can afford the vet costs. That’s what this supports, if you pause to think about it.
Let’s ground ourselves in reality for a minute. Many rural areas simply do not have vets who will treat livestock. Remember: sheep, goats, cattle and all livestock are large and often difficult to transport, most especially when they are ill. Indeed, transporting them when very ill may be a terrible idea for that animal, and worsen their condition. Sheep, in particular, are tough, and have a way of not showing anything is wrong until they’re at death’s door. Time is of the essence when it comes to animal treatment.
This FDA law does not address the fact of having ZERO access to the necessary vets to prescribe the antibiotics needed to heal what is, yes, a valuable animal, but also one who does not deserve needless suffering. Farm income will be hurt if people who are not vets cannot access necessary livestock antibiotics.
Let’s say a livestock vet IS available. Well, that presents a whole different set of problems. With small ruminants like sheep, the cost of that vet consultation to prescribe medicine will cost more than the value of the animal. Once again, animals who deserve better will suffer: people will, understandably, opt not to treat those animals because of the cost and hassle of 1) trying to find a vet willing to come out and 2) the high cost of a farm visit by a vet.
Like it or not, sometimes the lowly shearer and hoof trimmer is the one who is best suited to administer antibiotics a caring farmer was able to obtain – thank heaven.
Please do not support animal harm. Please submit a comment, and ask the FDA to toss this terrible recommendation for the sake of humane animal welfare. Surely we can do more by educating the public in regard to small farms and antibiotic withholding times.
Even if you do not own livestock, please go online and comment on this today, to this effect. I promise that, in so doing, you will help the welfare of thousands of small farmers and livestock — exactly the sort of non-CAFO animals and contexts we WANT to see more of.