Antibiotics have been utilized for decades in livestock to treat bacterial infections and as part of standard practices. Advocates have been pushing for the ban of antibiotics in chickens, cattle and pigs for years.
In 2014 Perdue, a Maryland-based poultry company, vowed to cut prophylactic antibiotic use by 95 percent and only utilize it to treat illnesses, when prescribed by a veterinarian. In 2015, Tyson Foods announced it would stop feeding its chickens antibiotics by September 2017. However, the company said it would not let chickens suffer.
On March 20, the House of Delegates and Senate separately approved a legislation that would prohibit farmers and poultry companies from giving chickens antibiotics. This practice is very common, but health experts are concerned that risks outweigh the benefits. Superbugs are developing resistance to medically important antibiotics, making it more difficult to treat illnesses that were once easily treated with these medicines.
Under the measure, poultry companies would only be permitted to utilize antibiotics to treat sick animals. The House approved the bill on a 139-1 vote and Senate 35-12. A committee will need to resolve the differences between the two versions of the bill, with only three weeks remaining in the 2017 General Assembly session. It will then advance to the governor’s desk.