“Hey, hey, ho, ho, drugs in meat have got to go” chanted protestors outside a McDonald’s in Maine. The oh-so-clever rabble held up massive “pill burgers” (hamburgers with a big pill inside) and were joined by the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Michael Khoo, who recently penned an article entitled “Want drugs with those fries?” for the insanely self-important TomPaine.com.
While Khoo tries to scare the public about antibiotics in hamburgers, the organization he works for declares that it’s a non-issue. Earlier this year, Keep Antibiotics Working (KAW), a coalition that includes UCS, successfully campaigned against a proposed meat label that would read “no detectable antibiotics residue.” KAW said the label would lead to “confusion,” and that it’s pointless anyway, since “antibiotic residue” — the stuff in your burger — isn’t a big deal. So while UCS raises fears about antibiotics in burgers (fears that KAW admits are unfounded) KAW works to kill a label that would help counter those fears.
Now that’s clever.
A coalition of pseudo-scientific activist groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, KAW exists to issue dire warnings that the use of antibiotics in livestock will lead to “superbugs.” Unfortunately, the KAW coalition does not include any real experts. The scientists whose bonuses aren’t linked to how many people they can scare say that antibiotic use in animals “has not made a major impact on human and animal health, and such a development seems unlikely to happen now.”
KAW member groups are actually less interested in keeping antibiotics working than in curtailing meat consumption. UCS wants to cut the average household’s meat consumption in half. CSPI has no love for meat and is on a jihad against fast food. The Humane Society of the United States, another KAW member, hopes to turn every American into a vegan. And Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the KAW member Waterkeeper Alliance, has vowed to sue every pork producer in the country, and then go after cow and chicken farmers. The antibiotic issue — pill burgers and all — is simply a cudgel to use against meat companies.
If KAW succeeded in banning sub-therapeutic antibiotics in animals, about half of existing cattle, hogs, and chickens wouldn’t survive long enough to go to market. That would dramatically raise meat prices, thereby reducing meat consumption. At the same time, farmers would probably raise more animals than they do now, to make up for the ones lost to disease. And that would multiply the environmental impact of farming that groups like the Waterkeeper Alliance say they are so concerned about in the first place.