Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the November issue of For the Record. Download the entire November issue here.

Not medicating animals improves their welfare?

In June, the New York Times profiled Tim and Liz Young, a middle class professional couple who one day grew bored with living suburban life along an Atlanta golfcourse. So, they took the counsel of Joel Salatan, the $7,000-per-appearance Virginia farmer made famous by activist author Michael Pollan, who has grown a cottage industry of “redeeming” America by peddling “natural” meat to nostalgic suburban eaters. They jumped ship for farm living.

The Youngs — or at least the Times contributor reporting their experience — seemed shocked, shocked, to discover Mother Nature can often turn downright mean toward her creatures. Apparently, they shortly learned, sows abandon piglets to die. Parasites eat livestock from the inside out. Bacteria and viruses waste them away.

How did the new-age farmers respond?

Step one was to refuse them modern medication, including antibiotics and antiparasitics. “I’m sorry that that animal died, probably because we didn’t feed her any worming medication,” Tim Young was quoted as saying. “But she shouldn’t be here.”

It may be “a really harsh thing to say,” he concedes. But that apparent lack of compassion for a suffering animal is offset by the greater love of the land it somehow demonstrates.

The Youngs represent a growing contingent of organic and all-natural advocates, for whom love of the land includes raising animals only “the way they should.” To them, that includes accepting a natural environment that leaves all decisions up to the will of Nature, including conceding that a certain number will grow sick and die without antibiotics. Such is Nature, unspoiled by the artificialities of Man, the Youngs’ experience implies. It reconnects them to a belief that humans should earn their place in the natural world, without artificial, inauthentic “shortcuts,” as Young calls them. (It’s an anti-synthetic philosophy they communicate to the world via their Internet web log.)

“You have to have values to get through those kinds of days and those kinds of conditions,” Tim said of watching his unmedicated animals sicken and die.

This is greater welfare?

Although the organic and all-natural movements are founded on a belief that their systems are more humane than conventional animal production, it’s obvious their medication policies are decidedly not. In most U.S. programs, participating farmers are forbidden from medicating animals with the most effective drugs — in the best cases until they are visibly suffering; in the worst, completely.

It once again begs the question more consumers are beginning to ask before shelling out the premium price such all-natural products typically carry: If there’s no proven health benefit for the shopper and no health benefit for the animal, what exactly are they paying for?

Also in this issue

  • Are “all natural” animals raised without antibiotics healthier? Why antibiotic restrictions may be leading to the opposite of the stated goal of organic production.
  • Poison, but natural...who’s responsible for ensuring the safe use of natural remedies?
  • Would the public accept non-medication of livestock if they knew it means more animal suffering?

Download a copy of the November issue of For the Record here.

For the Record, sponsored by a grant from ALPHARMA Inc., Animal Health, is designed to help unite the industry and provide a unified, rational message on behalf of producers whose freedom to use safe, effective, economical production methods is at stake. Working together, we can set the records straight on antibiotics.

Questions or comments? E-mail Steve Kopperud at Skopperud@poldir.com or editor Mike Smith at CustomMedia@Food360.com. Read past issues or link to more information on this issue at www.antibiotictruths.com