by Maureen Mahoney

Three cheers for California Governor Jerry Brown!   Today, we’re celebrating his veto of a bill that would have given industrial farms a green light to continue the dangerous overuse of antibiotics in livestock.

For years, Consumers Union has tried to avert disaster by fighting the wasteful dosing of healthy farm animals with antibiotics. Overuse makes antibiotics less effective because it contributes to the spread of resistant bacteria that are harder to treat.   Humans can be exposed to these bacteria via our air, environment and food.

In the U.S., about 80 percent of antibiotics are sold for use in farm animals — to make them grow faster, and to prevent and treat disease. Of course, antibiotics should be used to treat truly sick animals, but other uses of these precious drugs are wasteful and can lead to more antibiotic resistant bacteria.

The bill vetoed by Governor Brown would have created a California law similar to the weak guidelines recently issued by the FDA that is full of loopholes and allows for the continued use of antibiotics in livestock to prevent disease.

That’s why we’re so glad that Governor Brown vetoed Senate Bill 835, which would have confirmed the right to dose healthy animals with antibiotics. The bill just doesn’t take meaningful action to tamp down antibiotics overuse and stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Instead, we favored the now-defunct California Assembly Bill 1437, which would have only allowed the use of antibiotics on sick animals. We hope that California’s legislature will take a stand to protect public health and consider passing this stronger version of the bill next session.

Meanwhile, concerns also abound at the national level about antibiotic overuse in livestock production.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has opposed the use of antibiotics in healthy animals, and earlier this month President Obama created a task force to address the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

For now though, credit goes to Governor Brown for resisting factory farming interests and vetoing SB 835 – but this is just one step in the fight. You can help us by joining us in our campaign to get Trader Joe’s to join Whole Foods, Chipotle, and Panera and STOP selling meat raised with antibiotics! Click here to learn more.