Another View: Livestock antibiotics bill is a big step forward

07/26/2014 12:00 AM

07/24/2014 3:53 PM

Antibiotic resistance is one of our most urgent public health issues, and overuse of antibiotics in livestock is certainly one part of the problem. That’s why I am authoring Senate Bill 835.

Contrary to what is stated in a Viewpoints article (“Legislators must protect us on antibiotics and livestock,” July 18), the bill implements significant change, making it illegal to give antibiotics to livestock for growth promotion. For the first time ever, SB 835 requires a veterinarian prescription for a livestock antibiotic.

The authors of the Viewpoints article argue that SB 835 should also make it illegal to use antibiotics in livestock for preventative purposes. However, preventative use can be judicious.

For example, antibiotics are often given to humans for preventative purposes prior to surgeries. Just as humans are given prophylactic antibiotics when a doctor deems it necessary, there are situations in which a veterinarian may determine that livestock need prophylactic antibiotics.

Veterinarians are sworn to protect “animal health and welfare” and to use their training for “the prevention and relief of animal suffering.” We cannot simply remove a tool that veterinarians use to uphold their oath.

The article also fails to recognize that antibiotic resistance is a multifaceted problem. It describes doctors as being careful about prescribing antibiotics, but in reality, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 50 percent of all antibiotics prescribed by doctors are not needed or are improperly prescribed, contributing to the growth of resistance.

That’s why I have introduced another bill, SB 1311, to implement antibiotic stewardship programs at all California hospitals.

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