Many political pundits have been berating the Republican Party, or at least the elements of it that insist on ideological purity, saying they will end up losing elections and, rather than getting part of what they want, they will get nothing. The same argument can be used with the anti-livestock crowd.
It may be irrelevant that farm animals are more likely to be infected by humans with antibiotic resistant bacteria than farm animals will infect humans. It is certainly irrelevant that the use of antibiotics for livestock has been addressed in an extremely aggressive and effective manner or that the use of antibiotics in human medicine is contributing far more to antibiotic resistance than the use of antibiotics in animals.
This week, the anti-meat, anti-livestock and environmental groups came together in what was supposed to be an effort to get restaurant chains to publicly limit the use of meat produced with antibiotics on their menus. Most cattle producers won’t read the “Chain Reaction” report once they see the authors—Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resource Defense Council and Consumer Union are three of the primary groups issuing the report. Not only are they advocate groups, they are openly opposed to livestock production.
It is understandable that we don’t put much credence on this type of posturing, discounting it for what it is—an attempt to highlight the issue as it is being discussed in Congress. However, what is noticeable about this report is that it not only took responsible and scientific-based restaurant chains to task, it also criticized those who are in the anti-antibiotic camp, or who have at least attempted to capitalize on the market opportunities created by this issue.
Only two companies received A grades; Chipotle and Panera Bread. Chipotle has been rocked with allegations that it hasn’t been living up to its various health claims, so it surely needed the boost. Any chain that had not publicly announced policies geared to reducing or limiting antibiotic use in their menus received grades of F.
Most assuredly, the intention of this report is to claim that nobody is doing enough to eliminate the use of antibiotics in food animals, and to castigate those who are adopting science-based policies rather than succumbing to their public relation efforts. Yet, the result was to hammer some of the allies in their cause. Like the ideologues who would rather lose the election than compromise, these groups are actively jeopardizing their already limited credibility by insisting on an adherence to a standard that even its allies consider absurd.
Others will argue that this is the same strategy that has been often used in the past. With groups like PETA championing the absurd and taking the extreme of positions, radical views will seem like middle of the road. Politicians do the same all the time.
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