Click here to watch an interview with Dr. Liz Wagstrom, Chief Veternarian with the National Pork Producers Council.

U.S. pork producers and veterinarians charged with maintaining the health of the nation’s swine herd oppose restrictions on antibiotic use proposed by legislation currently being reviewed in Congress. The topic was discussed at a press conference conducted by the National Pork Producers Council at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines last week.

“Pork producers recognize their moral obligation to care for the welfare of their animals,” said Howard Hill, DVM, NPPC board member. “We oppose legislation that would ban the certain use of antibiotics in livestock, in particular, the legislation proposed by (New York Congresswoman) Louise Slaughter.”

Slaughter, (D-N.Y.), recently re-introduced legislation titled ‘The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act’, or PAMTA, with the objective of eliminating feed delivery of antibiotics in livestock.  Slaughter contends that antibiotic use in animal agriculture is the primary driver behind the antibiotic resistance phenomenon encountered in human medicine.

“Current and future availability of safe and effective animal health products are important to pork producers, who depend on these products, to maintain healthy and productive animals,” said Hill. “Responsible and judicious use of antibiotics in pork production helps prevent animal suffering, and ensures that consumers have access to safe and wholesome pork products.”

Pork producers administer antibiotics to their animals for four reasons, according to Hill: treatment of illness, prevention of disease, control of disease and nutritional efficiency of animals. The legislation proposed by Slaughter seeks to eliminate antibiotics used for nutritional efficiency. According to the Animal Health Institute, approximately 13 percent of animal antibiotics are used for that purpose.

Hill stresses that feed delivery of antibiotics must be preserved as an important method of disease prevention. “It is very important that we have the ability to maintain the health of newly-weaned pigs with the use of antibiotics that are delivered via the feed,” said Hill.

Before an antibiotic is approved by FDA for administration to livestock, a drug maker must demonstrate that the product is effective and safe for the animal and safe for the environment. FDA also must determine that antibiotics for food animals are safe with regard to human health. “In addition, pork producers also observe withdrawal requirements as set forth by the FDA which prevents any residue in meat,” added Hill.

Hill said pork producers and veterinarians coordinate their experience and knowledge together with scientific information including diagnostic test results to direct which product should be administered and the duration of treatment.

The National Pork Board’s “Take Care: Use Antibiotics Responsibly” demonstrates the pork industry’s fullest intention to observe the principles and guidelines for responsible antibiotic use in their animals.