Consumers getting misinformation about animal agriculture

ARLINGTON—Incorrect information about animal agriculture is being disseminated to the public, and it’s time to get the right information out there.

That’s according to U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-13th, of Georgia, who recently spoke at the ninth annual Animal Agriculture Alliance stakeholders summit on "Truth, Lies and Videotape: Is Activism Jeopardizing Our Food Security?"

"Information is power, and correct information makes you powerful," Scott said. "This nation is operating on bad information, and nowhere is that more dramatic than with animal welfare."

Scott, who chairs the House Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Subcommittee, explained that it’s difficult for legislators to make wise decisions on legislation that will affect livestock producers because they don’t have all the facts.

"I tell my PETA friends that farm animals are not pets and we can’t use our emotions about pets to formulate policy related to animal agriculture," he said. "Our agriculture industry has high standards for taking care of their animals," but ultimately those animals are "farm products."

Lindsay Reames, assistant director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, agreed. "Activists groups are spreading false messages to the general public that farmers don’t care about their animals, but the majority of Virginia farmers go the extra mile to take care of their livestock.

"They use scientifically sound practices when caring for their animals to keep them safe and healthy," Reames said. "The use of antibiotics to prevent disease in livestock is one of those practices that the public doesn’t understand."

There is currently a bill being debated in Congress that would ban the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in treating animals, Scott said. The problem with the bill is that the definition of non-therapeutic prohibits farmers from using antibiotics as preventive medicine. "This would throw science out the window and is a very dangerous bill," he said. "The sponsor of the bill has misinformation."

And that is the challenge animal agriculture producers face today—getting correct information to the public and to lawmakers.

Numerous reports recently have linked the use of antibiotics in animal feed to changes in resistance among humans. However, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held an April 28 hearing during which two health experts testified that there are no studies that prove a link between antibiotic use in animals and human health.

Antibiotic use in animal agriculture is a pressing issue, Scott said. "Animal agriculture is the source of our future, and having an ample, plentiful supply of food brought to us at a reasonable price is very important."

Contact Reames at 804-290-1019.

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