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Consumer perception and public policy on drugs used in cattle (Proceedings)

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Nov 01, 2010

At the time of this writing, the focus on farm animals by the media (and likely therefore consumer perception) seems to be on antimicrobial use in animal agriculture and on farm animal welfare. Examples include Katie Couric's report on CBS, http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6191894n/) and the Infectious Diseases Society of American statements at http://www.idsociety.org/Content.aspx?id=6252. Reports in the media focusing on dairy animal welfare and abuse include http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ifztoqZce_892PkW9PkxIwnvTB9gD9FUPA000/, prompted by a YouTube video of the alleged abuse filmed undercover. Public policy, include legislative initiatives have included legislations related to antimicrobials (see AVMA issues brief at http://www.avma.org/advocacy/federal/legislative/issue_briefs/preservation_antibiotics_2009.asp/, and state legislative efforts to regulate farm animal care and welfare (for extensive database of state laws, see http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/farmanimal/index.html). Both of these particular issues impact drug use and selection of drugs, so they are relevant to the discussion here. Even the use of drugs in general in food animals has been reported on in the mainstream media, after the USDA Office of the Inspector General released a report about the presence of residues in harvested cattle (see: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2010-04-12-tainted-meat_N.htm/).

Whether these particular issues will remain a focus of the general public and lawmakers remains to be seen, but the take home message for cattle veterinarians is that animal agricultural practices have come under considerable scrutiny in the last few years as have our drug use practices. Therefore, we need to be considered in our actions and supportive of all efforts to promote the prudent use of drugs, prevention of residues, and promotion of good welfare practices including appropriate use of analgesics.

The discussion during the session will highlight the most recent reports in the mainstream media related to the use of drugs in cattle as well as the most recent legislative activities, both federal and state level. The conclusion of cattle veterinarians should be that we will need to continue to advocate for our animal care standards as well as to evaluate our practices in terms of selection and use of drugs.