WATCH: Slaughter says antibiotics are for people only

Mar 13, 2015

Rep. Louise Slaughter has been leading the push to stop the overuse of antibiotics on farms.
Credit SASHA-ANN SIMONS/WXXI

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter is reintroducing a bill she thinks will help protect public health. The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act is meant to prevent farmers from feeding their livestock antibiotics.

Slaughter says she's been concerned with this issue since she did her masters thesis in microbiology.

"It's so important because it's becoming critical. We've about reached a tipping point here. It's whether or not we're going to save antibiotics for people, or fritter it away in the food of livestock."

When Slaughter says "save antibiotics," she doesn't mean we're running out. Actually, she's talking about saving their potency. Slaughter is mainly concerned with the development of super bugs through these practices.

Citing research from medical professionals, she says when a farmer feeds penicillin to his chickens, for instance, those chickens will develop drug-resistant bacteria. Slaughter says this mutated bacteria doesn't remain isolated to the animals, but permeates the air and water around them, eventually spreading to people.

Slaughter says this bill will never pass, because there is too much money involved in lobbying for the farming industry, but she urges people to make a statement with their wallets. She made a plea for people to buy meat only from animals that were not raised on antibiotics.

"I haven't eaten chicken for two and a half years. I've determined I won't eat it until I grow it in my backyard."

The Congresswoman is also featured as an advocate and policy maker in the documentary film Resistance, which takes a closer look at antibiotic-resistant bacteria and its threat to the public. Michael Graziano is film's director and producer.

"We wanted to hear from her what some of the challenges were in the legislative process, from the policy side, and what her perspective was and why she was doing what she's doing."

Graziano says for him, this goes beyond agriculture and humane farming practices.

"The other big issue and the thing that I found really shocking is that fifty percent of all the antibiotic prescriptions written in the United States are unnecessary."

Graziano and Slaughter, as well as Monroe County Health Commissioner Byron Kennedy and veterinarian Jerry Bertoldo, will be part of a panel discussion following a screening of Graziano's film Thursday night at 6:30 at RIT.