NCBA pushes scientific approach to antibiotics

Feb 12, 2010
by WLJ

Kansas State University’s (KSU) Michael Apley, a veterinary clinical pharmacologist, traveled to Capitol Hill recently with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) to educate lawmakers and their staff about the use of antibiotics in the beef industry.

Apley and NCBA met with Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, D-NY, and Congressman Leonard Boswell, D-IA, to discuss H.R. 1549, Slaughter’s bill to ban the use of antibiotics in livestock.

“We appreciate Congresswoman Slaughter taking the time to visit with us today. I’m encouraged by her willingness to sit down for an open discussion and that she has extended an offer for us to be involved in the discussions moving forward,” said Apley. “As a veterinary clinical pharmacologist, I work to evaluate the benefits and risks of use of antibiotics in livestock. It’s extremely important that data-driven review and analysis be the guiding force behind every decision that affects the care of our animals and the safety of the food we eat.”

Boswell, who also has concerns about H.R. 1549, was part of a recent congressional delegation trip to Denmark to examine the impacts that their antibiotics’ ban had on the country’s swine population.

“In Denmark, we heard from farmers who saw increased mortality and illness, in addition to higher production costs, soon after the ban was put in place,” Boswell said. “In fact, many small Danish farmers who raised pigs went out of business after the ban. Only the farmers who could afford to implement the ban did survive the transition.”

In addition to the meeting with Slaughter and Boswell, NCBA held a congressional briefing for staff where Apley discussed the judicious use of antibiotics in the beef industry as one of the critical tools used to raise healthy cattle. The briefing was part of NCBA’s ongoing “Beef 101” series to educate policymakers about the beef production process, including the industry’s commitment to producing the world’s safest, most abundant, nutritious and affordable beef supply.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and outright misrepresentations out there about why and how antibiotics are used in the cattle industry,” said Apley. “The truth is, cattle producers and veterinarians utilize many tools, including vaccines, herd health management, genetics and animal nutrition to avoid the need for antibiotics.

“They must adhere to strict, science-based guidelines in the use of antibiotics to treat, prevent, and control disease in livestock.

These antibiotics have passed a stringent FDAapproval process, which has demonstrated they are safe and effective.”

Apley is a KSU veterinary professor, beef cattle veterinarian, fourth-generation beef producer, and clinical pharmacologist. He is also a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Clinical pharmacology. Apley works with veterinarians throughout the U.S. concerning the use of medicine in food animals and also in the area of beef cattle health.

“Prevention of disease is a cornerstone in both human and animal medicine,” Apley continued. “Veterinarians and producers are intent on fulfilling their obligations to both human and animal health, and our current regulatory process provides methodologies for further evaluating the use of antibiotics in food animals. It would be a tragedy to lose any valuable tools for preventing animal disease without substantial evidence for a benefit to human health.” — WLJ