'Tour de Manure' Raises a Stink about Antibiotic Use on Factory Farms; Physicians and Experts Argue for Greater Support of Sustainable Family Farming

NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- On Saturday, doctors, scientists, farmers and experts in animal welfare converge for the first time ever to debate the risks that factory farms pose to human health and to discuss solutions to those dangers. The 'Tour de Manure,' will take experts from across the nation and local residents alike across southeastern Minnesota to visit a wide range of animal factories and facilities, questioned the advisability of using massive amounts of human antibiotics on hogs, chickens and cows even when the animals aren't sick.

Animal production companies such as Cargill have been severely criticized in the past few years by the World Health Organization and American Medical Association for diminishing the effectiveness of human antibiotics by feeding them to animals to speed production.

"Factory farms unnecessarily endanger human health by giving antibiotics to animals to keep them growing and productive in a deplorable living environment," said Diane Halverson of the Animal Welfare Institute. "Our hope is that by bringing together doctors, scientists, humane family farmers and local residents, we can find a solution to maintain the health of animals while keeping our antibiotics working."

Saturday's tour follows a recent report by Sierra Club and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, "Poultry on Antibiotics: Hazards to Human Health," which sampled supermarket poultry and found that a majority tested positive for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The findings suggest that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are finding their way from the farm to the fork.

"We are seeing an alarming rise in antibiotic-resistant infections," said Dr. Jon Rosenblatt, a microbiologist and infectious disease specialist from Rochester, Minn. "And since factory farms unnecessarily feed 16 million pounds of antibiotics annually to chicken, pigs, turkeys and cows as growth promoters and to substitute for unsanitary conditions, we can only assume that animal agriculture is contributing to the disturbing increase."

The Tour de Manure is intended to not only show participants the problems caused by factory farms but to explore alternatives to raising animals on routine antibiotics and to prove that the industrialization of agriculture is neither necessary nor inevitable. Participants will visit sustainable farms that demonstrate how family farmers can treat animals humanely and don't need to risk human health with antibiotics while still making a profit.

"It's reassuring to see that there are still a number of family farmers that don't pollute the environment, don't treat animals like mechanical units and produce tasty products that don't risk human health," said Sarah Wilson, a Minneapolis resident on the Tour de Manure. "The next time I go shopping, I will certainly look to support family farmers that don't abuse my medicines."

The tour is sponsored by the Sierra Club and co-sponsored by the Animal Welfare Institute, the Feedlot Front and Environmental Technology Studies at Carleton College.

Source: Sierra Club