Animal Welfare Impact of Change: Negative

Environmental Impact of Change: Negative


Similar to people getting a flu shot, farmers and ranchers use antibiotics to prevent illness in their animals. Use of antibiotics is done under the supervision of a veterinarian. 

Despite this, animal rights activists have submitted several shareholder resolutions on the issue of antibiotic use on farms, seeking to ban this practice. Public health activists have raised concern that the (over)use of “medically important” antibiotics on farms–that is, antibiotics that are also used in human medicine–could lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that affect humans. Some livestock antibiotics are not used in human medicine.

Federal regulations require a period of time for an animal’s body to process and eliminate medicine before the animal can be used for food. All meat products available for consumers should be considered antibiotic-free. 

What Experts Say

The American Veterinary Medical Association supports the judicious use of antibiotics to prevent disease in animals. “Antimicrobial Stewardship involves maintaining animal health and welfare by implementing a variety of preventive and management strategies to prevent common diseases; using an evidence-based approach in making decisions to use antimicrobial drugs; and then using antimicrobials judiciously, sparingly, and with continual evaluation of the outcomes of therapy,” says the AVMA.

“Keeping food-producing animals healthy also increases the availability and affordability of safe meat and dairy products,” notes the Animal Health Institute. “In 2013 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control published a report titled ‘Antibiotic Resistance Threats.’ This document listed the most urgent bacterial resistance threats faced by doctors in human healthcare settings. Most are pathogens that don’t occur in animals and thus using antibiotics in animals does not affect the prevalence of these.”

Animal Welfare Impact of Change: Negative

Antibiotics are used to prevent illness in livestock. Banning their use as preventive medicine will lead to more animals getting sick and dying. This would be a clear reduction in animal welfare. 

Environmental Impact of Change: Negative

Banning the use of antibiotics as preventive medicine would lead to more animals dying from illness. This means more animals will need to be raised to meet consumer demand, which in turn will require more land, feed, water, and transportation to raise the additional animals. Each factor has an additional environmental cost.